Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Crochet: Amazing Technicolour Dream Shawl

This is the blog post that didn't want to be written. Don't ask me why - I love the shawl that I have to show you today, and I enjoyed making it, so it's not down to any lack of enthusiasm. It's been finished for over a month, and I've had the photos ready to go for more than a fortnight, but for some reason whenever I sat down to talk to you about it I wasn't sure what to say. Writer's block is a bit of a melodramatic term to use for this little blog of mine, but that's what it felt like. Has anyone else had that problem?

Anyway, I decided that I needed to just get on and write something, so here's my amazing technicolour dream shawl...

The pattern is the Flower Mosaic shawl which appeared in issue 64 of Inside Crochet. I saw it on the cover when I was browsing the craft/sewing magazines, and instantly loved the riot of colour. I didn't have a crochet project on the go at the time, so I ordered the yarn and got started.

The shawl started off life back in April as this pile of balls of Scheepjeswol Cotton 8. The original pattern uses more colours, but there were some in there that I wasn't so keen on so I decided to limit it to 12. That's the minimum number that the pattern recommends, and I'd agree with that - you wouldn't want to have less than this if you want to not have 2 flowers of the same colour too close together. For reference, the colours I used were turquoise, light blue/green, fuchsia, purple, pink, white, grey/blue, cobalt, petrol, canary, orange and red.

The shawl is made up of 1,035 little flowers, which are joined together as you go. Joining as you go is definitely the best way for me to make projects made up of lots of individual motifs - I have a pile of various crochet squares that were destined to become a blanket which are testament to the fact that I get bored of projects that are going to involve lots of seaming at the end!

1,035 seemed like quite a daunting number at the start of the project, but it was surprising how quickly the shawl grew. I mainly worked on it in my lunch breaks, so lots of fairly small chunks of time, which were perfect for this because it was easy to pick up and put down and each flower was finished pretty quickly.

I had a self-imposed rule that I had to weave in the ends from each day's flowers before I could start doing more flowers the next day, because if I'd finished crocheting and then had to weave in 2,070 ends then the shawl would have been left neglected in a corner with the offending ends staring at me in an accusatory manner whilst refusing to weave themselves in.

I had to go up from a 3mm hook to a 4mm one to get the gauge used in the pattern, but I think my gauge might have decreased as the project went on because my finished shawl is still smaller than the dimensions stated. That's no surprise though - I obviously take all my stress out on crochet and make it super tight. When I did my crochet course, everything I made turned out smaller than it did for everyone else in the class! Hey well, better to transfer the stress to the crochet than having it fester inside of me!

I just have one problem with this project - I need to work out how to wear shawls more elegantly! Whenever I put it on, it just looks a bit of a mess. I need get better at that though, because I seem to be drawn to shawl patterns much more than scarves for both knitting and crochet. Has anyone got any tips for me?

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Made Up Initiative: shirt dress refashion

I'm sure that by now most of you will have heard of the Made Up Initiative launched by Karen of Did You Make That, and that your blog readers and social media feeds are filling up with completed challenges. Are you taking part? Here's my contribution!

I'm always happy to get behind a good cause like the National Literacy Trust, even more so if supporting it also involves some sewing community fun. As I was going to be away for part of the fundraising month, I didn't want to set myself too big a challenge and instead pledged to tackle a project that I knew I wanted to do, but otherwise might have been pushed aside - refashioning a denim shirt dress that I picked up in a charity shop. Here are the before and after photos...

I feel slightly like I've done what magazines always do when they're doing makeovers - the before shot was taken in a rush on a gloomy day, whereas the after were taken in lovely sun and with pretty accessories. This wasn't intentional though, and was more due to the fact that I needed to take the before photos so I could get on with the actual refashioning so didn't have the luxury of waiting for better lighting.

As I said, the dress came from a charity shop and cost me the princely sum of £3. I knew when I bought it that it would need some alteration because it was 3 sizes too big for me, but the denim was so gorgeously soft that I thought it would be worth the work.

It seemed like a good candidate for my Made Up pledge because I always have good intentions when it comes to refashioning, but tend to get distracted by new patterns or fabric and the refashioning gets neglected and forgotten about. This would give me the incentive to actually get it done!

Here's a brief summary of the changes I made:

- Added 1 inch tucks at each of the 4 waist darts
- Removed the arms
- Took in the side seams of the bodice
- Trimmed away excess fabric from the shoulder, tapering to nothing towards the underarm
- Finished the armholes with bias binding
- Chopped 3 inches off the bottom and re-hemmed the dress
- Replaced the dark metal buttons with rainbow beauties (these ones!)
- Added backwards buttons at the waist to prevent gaping

I'll admit that this was largely done based on guesswork! The tucks at the waist were inspired by the ones on the Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress; I really like the shape that they give (my version's here), and I thought that doing something similar would be a good and, more importantly, easy way of taking the excess width out of the waist. I basted them first just to check I wasn't being completely insane, and thankfully for me it worked brilliantly.

The sleeves/shoulders definitely needed work, and I decided that the easiest thing would be just to get rid of the sleeves entirely. Plus that gives me the option of wearing it on its own in the summer or layering it with t-shirts pinafore-style when it's colder.

I judged how much to take out of the side seam by putting the dress on inside out and pinning where I wanted the stitching to be on one side and then mirroring that over on the other side. Possibly not the most scientific way of doing it but it worked!

Sewing all the new buttons on was probably the most time-consuming part of the whole process but I'm glad that I did it. There wasn't anything wrong with the original buttons, but with them and the denim both being quite dark it wasn't exactly an exciting combination. The rainbow buttons are much more fun! They're refusing to be photographed close-up, but hopefully you can see them a bit in the photo above.

All in all, I'm glad I chose this as my Made Up pledge so that I had the incentive to actually get on and sort out the dress. It feels lovely to wear, and I have a sneaky suspicion that it'll become a real favourite in my wardrobe. Maybe I should take that as encouragement to get some more refashioning done!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Butterick 6217 Blouse & Veronika Skirt

Today you get the second (and final) installment of blog-photos-that-I-took-on-holiday, which sees me twirling around the picturesque surroundings of Alnwick Garden showing off a Butterick 6217 blouse and a denim Veronika skirt.

I got some funny looks when we were taking these photos - you could see people wondering why we were focussing on me instead of all the pretty plants and landscaping - but I've got to the point now where I don't mind as long as the onlookers aren't the kind of people who are going to start shouting comments at me. The average garden visitor tends towards the more decorous end of the scale so I was safe here!

Anyway, back to the sewing itself...

Butterick 6217 is one of the Patterns by Gertie line, and it instantly appealed to me when it was released because I liked the shape of the neckline. I then realised it needs very little fabric, especially if you make view C as I did here, so it seemed like it would be a good way to use up some of the larger remnants I have from other projects. Regular readers may recognise the fabric I've used here as the leftovers from the Vintage Shirt Dress that I made earlier this year.

I made this a couple of weeks ago now, so some of the details of sewing it are a little hazy in my mind, but I know it was a quick project and I didn't make any notes in the notebook I keep by my machine so I assume it was all relatively straightforward and pain-free!

I really like the shape of the blouse, although it's worth noting that to get the fit shown on the pattern envelope you'd definitely need to size down. My measurements put me ever-so-slightly above a 16, but when I made a toile of the 16 it was bordering on tent-like. I sized down to a 14, which fits nicely but I still feel like my version has more ease than shown on the envelope.

The photo above is meant to show the nice shape created by the darts in the back before I tucked the blouse in for the day, but in reality I just think it makes my back look odd!

Now, on to the skirt! This is my second version of Megan Nielsen's free Veronika pattern (version 1 here), and I can tell already that this one is going to get worn a LOT! I don't wear trousers really so denim skirts do the job for me that jeans do for most people, but this one will be a particular favourite because it has the practical goes-with-everything side, but at the same time is also beautifully twirly and fun!

The fabric is a lightweight denim that I got a couple of months ago from The Splendid Stitch. It doesn't seem to be in stock anymore, which is a shame because it's the perfect denim for this kind of skirt. I'd definitely recommend ordering from The Splendid Stitch though - Amy has put together a gorgeous range of fabrics, and dispatched both my samples and fabric order really quickly.

I don't think you'd want to make a circle skirt in any old denim. I know I've worked with some which would be far too stiff and heavy, but this one really is a different kettle of fish. I did cut the inner waistband and pocket linings from a thinner cotton just to keep down bulk, but for the rest the denim has great drape and the finished skirt is gloriously swishy as I walk in it. The only problem is it makes me want to twirl about excessively, which is probably annoying to those around me!

For this version of Veronika, I stuck with the narrow waistband but also added on the scalloped pockets too - they're lovely deep pockets and have proven quite useful when trying to hold down the skirt on breezy days! I also added my own simple belt loops on the waistband, because I knew I'd want to wear belts quite a bit with this skirt.

In case it's not already obvious, I'm really pleased with how these both turned out! I'll definitely make more versions of B6217 as I identify suitable candidates in my stash, and I know this version of the Veronika skirt will become a bit of a wardrobe workhorse. In fact Veronika may fast be becoming a TNT and at some point in the not-too-distant future I'd really like to try a knit version. Have you discovered any TNTs recently?