Sunday, 25 January 2015

Jennifer Lauren Enid Sweater - a very wearable muslin

One of my very vague sewing aims for this year is to try to sew some good basic wardrobe staples in addition to all the pretty dresses (because, let's face it, I'm always going to love sewing the pretty dresses and there's no point pretending otherwise!), which is why the Jennifer Lauren Enid sweater went to the top of my 'to sew' list as soon as it was released late last year. After all, a fitted cropped sweater is just what a lover of full skirts needs to keep her cosy at this time of year!

The pattern is designed to be used with sweatshirt fabric, and I'd spotted some that I really loved but wanted to make a test version first to be sure that the fit was OK and to get used to sweatshirt fabric as I'd never sewn with it before. I picked the navy sweatshirting up for £5 a metre at Fabricland in Bristol, and as it wasn't super expensive and is more practical than pretty, I knew I wouldn't be heartbroken if this version didn't turn out completely right. Luckily for me, my wearable muslin has turned out to be very wearable indeed!

Based on my measurements, I made a straight size 14 without any adjustments, reasoning that the fit should be OK because it's the same size that I've just for my three versions of the Bronte top (1, 2, 3) and they all fit me nicely. The only thing I wasn't sure about was the length, and that was the main reason behind making the test version. The finished length in the instructions matched my shoulder to waist measurement so I decided to make Enid up according to the pattern. The length of my finished version seemed pretty much spot on when I tried it on, and it is essentially fine, but having now worn it a bit I would prefer it just a teeny bit longer so I'll add an inch or so to the length of my next version - it's not surprising that I need to do that because adding length to tops/bodices is a standard adjustment for me.

Enid was a really nice project to sew up. The PDF was easy to tape together - I really like the way Jen arranges her PDFs so that the individual pattern pieces print on separate groups of pages - it makes taping together so much easier. And once I got down to the sewing, the instructions were very thorough and perfectly clear, making the whole process pretty straightforward. The only slightly fiddly bit was attaching the ribbing at the neckline (on that note, I got the ribbing from myfabrics - it's really nice and they have a great range of colours, although I'd trust the pictures on the website more than the written colour descriptions. Mine was labelled purple, which it's definitely not, but it is exactly the same colour as the picture online). I did have to unpick and re-stitch the point of the V once, entirely due to my less than perfect stitching, but other than that I didn't have any problems at all - everything came together easily.

The sweatshirt fabric was also fairly easy to handle and sewed up nicely. The only exception being the fact that my brain temporarily went on holiday and forgot to change my iron temperature between pressing the ribbing (which could take a higher temperature) on its own and pressing once it was attached to the neckline. It was a stupid mistake, and it has left a bit of a shiny mark right on the front of the neckline, but thankfully for me it's only visible in certain lights and my Mum and sister only noticed it when I pointed it out to them, so it's not going to stop me wearing this version of Enid. I'll just have to remind myself to stop pointing out the imperfections to people! I'm not the only one that does that am I?!

All in all, I'm really glad I made this test version of the Enid pattern first. There are a couple of teeny little self-inflicted and fitting imperfections which I'll sort out next time, but they definitely won't stop me wearing this version.

As Enid is quite fitted and cropped, it looks great with full skirts/dresses and is flattering, but at the same time the sweatshirt fabric makes it so comfy and cosy (nice to be able to take outdoor blog photos at this time of year without ending up shivering!), so it's the best of both worlds. I'm now looking forward to sewing Enid number 2! Have you sewn an Enid yet? Or do you have any other good sweatshirt patterns to recommend?

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

A pair of warm jersey tops

Even if I've only seen the tiniest sprinkling of snow here in Bristol so far, it's still pretty chilly so the two projects that I have to show you today seem particularly appropriate for this weather because they're both made using lovely warm jersey from White Tree Fabrics. Pair that with the Bronte and Renfrew patterns, and I now have two great new tops to snuggle up and keep cosy in!

I started off with the Bronte top - I've made it twice before (here and here) and it's fast becoming a firm favourite pattern. It stitches up nice and quickly (I had this finished in an evening) and the neckline makes it a little bit different from a normal t-shirt without being any more complicated to make.

As with my previous versions, I made a size 14 with no alterations. Thankfully I managed to get through this incarnation of Bronte without nearly destroying it as I did last time, so the buttons are merely serving their purpose as intended in the pattern of holding down the shoulder overlap, instead of hiding a hole!

The buttons were actually the starting point of this project really. I love stars, so when I spotted these little pearly ones in my local haberdashery I knew I had to have some. I then dithered about what to use them for because I think the shape would make them annoying if they were functioning buttons that you needed to undo and do up all the time, but for this kind of fixed button, they're great. I wanted to use them on a plain fabric so they'd stand out, and the blue warm jersey seemed like a great match.

As well as the buttons, you can also see the fabric itself better here. The knits I've used in the past have been t-shirt type jerseys, but this is more like the kind of fabric that would be used for thin jumpers/sweaters. Unlike the other knits I've worked with, this fabric did shed a bit during cutting and sewing so I finished all of the seams with a zigzag stitch. Other than that, I treated it the same as other jerseys (prewashed on a normal 30 degree wash, seams using a narrow zigzag, and Bronte hems/topstitching with a twin needle) and that all seemed to work well and both of the tops have passed the initial wear test. The fabric definitely lives up to its name too - it's so nice and warm to wear.

So, with Bronte finished and looking pretty, I moved on to the Renfrew and some lovely wine coloured warm jersey. This is actually the first Renfrew I've sewn and I feel like I must be the last person in the sewing community to get around to making this pattern (I'm not am I? Please tell me there's someone else out there?)! I may be late to the party, but I'm glad I got there in the end and there'll be many more Renfrews in my future. After all with all the neckline and sleeve length options, you could make loads without even repeating the same combination.

As many people have said before me, it's a great pattern, the instructions are clear and easy to follow and I really like how the body and sleeve hems are finished with bands for a slightly different effect to the other patterns I've used and most RTW t-shirts. I can definitely see why Renfrew is a TNT pattern for so many people.

I love cowl neck tops (not least because you can hide in the cowl when you're not feeling very photogenic, which I definitely wasn't on this day!), so that was always going to be my first Renfrew neckline to try out, and pairing it with the long sleeves seemed like the obvious choice at this time of year.

I'm so pleased with how the top turned out it's definitely looser than the Bronte - my measurements are all pretty much exactly a 13 for the Renfrew (i.e. bang in the middle between a 12 and 14) so I erred on the side of caution and went for a 14. I possibly could have got away with a 12, but I like the looser fit, which combined with the fabric makes it feel more like a sweater than a t-shirt. Next time I make a Renfrew, I might go down to a 12 - or if I'm using a tighter-fitting fabric I might stick with a 14 and see how that goes.

All in all, I think these two tops are a very good start to my sewing for 2015 and I can see them both getting a lot of wear. I'm glad that I've finally got round to making a Renfrew so that, combined with Bronte, I've now got 2 t-shirt patterns I know I can trust. The fabric is lovely too, and I've just realised that it might make a really nice version of the Oslo cardigan from Seamwork, so I might have to treat myself to some more soon. I'm telling myself that it would be justified because I recently realised that moths had attacked one of my favourite cardis, so surely I need a replacement, don't I?!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Homemade Christmas Gifts

Yes, I know, it's well into January now and Christmas has been and gone but, as it's still (just about) Twelfth Night, I'm going to go ahead and talk about some of the gifts that I made this year, if nothing else because I like to have a record of what I've been making on the blog, but hopefully it might also give someone else an idea of gifts to make in the future.

I went a bit crazy on the crochet front this year, mainly due to the book Hook, Stitch & Give by Kat Goldin. I spied the book online when it was released a couple of months ago and instantly knew that the bobble hat on the front cover would be a perfect gift for my sister. Combine that with lots of other pretty patterns that I liked the look of for me or knew I could make for other people, and buying the book was a pretty easy decision.

I had a slight initial false start involving me trying to run before I could walk with a new stitch (foundation trebles, in case you're interested), but after I read through the instructions in the book again I conquered the problem, and then everything else went swimmingly. The yarn I used is Stylecraft Special Aran in navy and raspberry. I think if I'd used the recommended yarns, I might have achieved the slightly more slouchy effect shown in the photos in the book but I'm happy with how the hat turned out (and more importantly so is my sister), so it's all good.

I then moved on to making the Knitterly hat from the book for my Dad. Now, either the book is really generous with its yarn amounts or I somehow managed to make the hat with way less yarn than I was meant to. So much so that when I was nearly finished the hat intended for my Dad, I realised that I'd easily have enough to make a matching hat for my little nephew. Then I decided that it would be an even better idea to make the mini hat for my nephew, but give the hat I'd intended for my Dad to my brother-in-law, and make a third hat for my Dad. But then that would leave my brother as the only man in my immediate family without a hat, so clearly that meant that I'd need to make a fourth hat. I only decided this about 10 days before Christmas, which might not have been my smartest move, but here's the evidence that I did get it all finished....

Thankfully for me, the hat is a simple but effective pattern and worked up fairly quickly. I managed to get my nephew's done in the time it took to watch Love Actually, most of my Dad's hat done on a return coach journey to London (on that point, I'm totally converted to the joys of public crafting. I've never really knitted on public transport because I worry I'll annoy whoever's sitting next to me with the needles, but crochet hooks are so much smaller that that's not a problem. And the journey went so much quicker with something to occupy me!), and my brother's done during every lunch break that I had between deciding to make it and Christmas!

The hats for my brother-in-law and nephew were made using Wendy Mode Chunky in denim, and for the ones for my Dad and brother I used Stylecraft Life Chunky in Blue Haze and Grey. The hats seem to have gone down well with their recipients, so I'm glad that I made the effort to make them all.

Of course, I had to fit some sewing into all of my Christmas crafting as well, and here the inspiration came from the book Sew Cute to Cuddle, which I first heard about when Charlie of This Blog is Not For You reviewed it. The book caught my attention because my brother's girlfriend likes hippos so I thought Mary the hippo from the book would be a good present for her, and it was very well received so I think I made a good choice!

The book includes full-size patterns for all of the projects to trace off, and the instructions were nice and clear. The only slight problem I had with Mary was that I failed to realise that the patterns don't include seam allowances before I cut my fabric out. Ooops! I managed to make it work though, and the only difference is that poor Mary's legs have ended up being a little shorter than they're meant to be.

Obviously I also had to sew a toy for my nephew too, and I chose Gronk the monster. In the book, he's made up in faux fur, but I thought that cotton would be better when it's highly likely that he'll get chewed. I ended up using scraps that I had left over from a couple of fat quarter bundles that have been used for many and varying purposes over the last couple of years, and I really like the effect of the multi-coloured legs and arms. 

The patterns in this book would all be pretty good for using up scraps actually - I think Mary the hippo probably uses the most material, and even for her I think I used under half a metre. The patterns were both fairly simple as well, although obviously the smaller pieces can get a bit fiddly. Other than sewing up openings for stuffing though, the only place where I had to resort to hand sewing was attaching the bottom of Mary's feet to her legs - so not too painful!

Gronk seemed to get on well with his new owner!

I mostly enjoyed making all my presents, although it did get a bit stressful towards the end - next year I need to either start earlier or not suddenly decide to give myself masses of extra work to do at the last minute (please tell me I'm not the only one who does that?!)! Now I'm looking forward to getting back to making for myself again - all I need to do now is to decide which of my pile of pre-washed fabrics to cut first. Not a bad problem to have!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Bye bye 2014!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you've all been having a happy and fun-filled festive season!

Things have been a bit quiet round here for the last couple of weeks while I was immersed in and then recovering from Christmas present making, which I'll probably talk about another day (but in case anyone is wondering, I wouldn't advise deciding to crochet 3 extra hats less than 10 days before Christmas unless you're much speedier at crocheting than I am!), but today I wanted to do the customary look back on my creations in the last 12 months. I'm not one for making sweeping new year's resolutions, I kind of prefer to change things that aren't working as I go along, but it's good to take stock now and then and the turn of the year seems like an obvious time to do that - but feel free to stop reading this post now if you're sick of the sight of reviews already!

It's probably no secret by now that I love full-skirted dresses, so it's no surprise that my beach hut Emery, Cambie and Cami dresses are some of my favourites from this year. In general, I still like the vast majority of the dresses I've sewn this year but these three stand out because I always feel especially good wearing them.

There's no doubt that the garment I'm proudest of making this year is my Anise jacket. It's by no means perfect but it was, and probably still is, the most complicated project I've ever tackled and was worn a lot over the spring and summer. On that note, an honourable mention also needs to be given to my Malu jacket which is doing sterling work in keeping me warm and protected from the elements at the moment.

Neither my Hollyburn skirt nor my third Lilou dress look particularly exciting, but that's probably part of the reason why they're my most worn creations (with the exception of jackets) of the year - they go with so many things in my wardrobe, are super comfy and are just my style. I don't really wear trousers, so they kind of work for me like jeans do for most people.

Basically, there's nothing wrong with relying on fit-and-flare if that's what works for me, it's worth putting the effort into bigger projects that will be worn a lot, and pretty things are great but you need a good wardrobe staple every now and then too.

I don't think I mentioned it on my blog at all, but I started this year with a couple of fairly modest goals in mind, two of which were to start sewing with knits and to attempt some form of colourwork in knitting. I think I did pretty well on the sewing knits front - I particularly like my two Bronte tops (blogged here and here) and I think knits will feature pretty highly in my sewing plans for the next year.

I also got to grips with intarsia for my polka dot cushion, and I'm in the middle of knitting a jumper using intarsia too. I'm also really pleased that I managed to finally complete a long-term knitting WIP this year, and that I persevered and got through some problems to finish my Cria cardigan. I definitely want to try to get more knitting done this year, and to try some Fair Isle projects.

Now for things that weren't quite so successful...

I wouldn't class any of these as failures, more as lessons learned. I still love my Gabriola skirt, and the only failure here is related to my own organisation. I wore this on holiday at Easter, it then came home and got lost in my mess of a wardrobe so I didn't wear it again. Please tell me I'm not the only one who has had this problem?! Hopefully a big clear-out a couple of months ago will have made sure this doesn't happen again!

I genuinely liked my Pattern Runway kimono sleeve dress when I finished it, and wore it a couple of times, but the shape just isn't as flattering on me as more fit-and-flare styles so it's been neglected and unloved for a good few months now.

My Winifred dress did get worn quite a bit over the summer because it is really comfy, but I always feel a bit 'blah' in it so it was mainly worn on working-from-home days when I don't see many people. The colour's just not quite right on me - one of the perils of buying most of my fabric online. Since then, I've tried to be a bit more picky about what I'm ordering or to get swatches before I buy.

Looking at my blog archive, you'd think that I'd given up on crochet but I definitely haven't as this photo and my upcoming Christmas presents post will prove. I've also got a long-term blanket project which I've been working on throughout the year - it's not quite as far along as I originally planned but it's getting there slowly and surely.

Those slight minor down points aside, I think it's been a pretty successful creative year. I've also really enjoyed writing my blog, and I've even sort of got used to having my photo taken! It's lovely to connect with fellow sewing fanatics, knitters, crocheters and general creatives around the world, so thank you to all of you who have read my ramblings or left comments - I really appreciate it.

Now comes the fun of working out what I want to make in the next few months - I love a bit of list making! What has 2015 got in store for you?