Thursday, 30 April 2009

A dinner of herbs

I did not make much sewing progress last weekend.

On Friday afternoon, I had an appointment with a bike doctor. On Saturday, we were in Leeds visiting family, and on Sunday, when I finally had time to sew, I first had to work through a series of dull-but-essential sewing tasks (mending a tear, fixing a hem and sewing name-tapes in new school clothes).

After that, I started cutting out pieces for my next project.

But this went wrong, firstly because I discovered, on ironing a piece of striped fabric I had pre-washed (diligent sewist this time!), that it was slightly seersucker. Only a little but enough to have that distinctive puckering after washing. I'm not sure if it will work in this project, because this fabric needs to be the reverse of a piece, for which the other side is plain printed cotton. Then, I flipped another piece of fabric over to make it easier to cut out, and forgot I was working the other way up, and didn't leave enough full width to cut all the pieces needed. So I've had to go back to the shop for more.

I also searched for alternative striped material but couldn't find any in colours that would work with my other fabrics. I'm contemplating sewing with the woven stripe and hoping for the best! If anyone has an opinion on the Seersucker conundrum, please do comment and let me know what you think.

However, together me and dh made collaborative progress on the gardening front.

Last year, we grew runner beans, tomatoes, lettuce and spinach in the borders of our suburban garden, and also successfully established a bed full of herbs. And this year, dh has installed a raised bed for vegetables. It was planted up last weekend:

But I should add we bought these young plants from a garden centre. Not having a greenhouse, or much gardening experience, we didn't try to grow them from seed.

We have tried some seed potatoes though. They are planted in deep pots in another part of the garden.

Also added a few bits to the herb garden I started last year. It's quite established now, but we added the terracotta planter you can see at the back:

I'm longing to cook with the things out of our garden. In fact, we have herbs ready to use from now on (except the chives. They are still establishing - slightly to the left of the above picture!).

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Little Red (embroidered) Hen

I like chickens.

In fact, although we live in the suburbs, dh and I had a serious conversation earlier this year about getting some - encouraged by Omelet. (This site contains lots on information about keeping chickens, and sells all kinds of associated stuff - including the chickens themselves). However, for lots of reasons, our chicken plans must be on hold for a while yet.

In the meantime I made this chicken to live in our kitchen. It keeps our teapot warm.

The pattern is by the wonderful Janet Clare. It uses a mix of hand embroidery, machine sewing and hand sewing. And given the sunshine here this week, I was very glad to have a project involving hand-sewing, as it meant I could sit out in the garden and stitch.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Rosy Posy

There were two birthdays in our family lately. One was fourteen, one was twenty-six. And recently, both relevant family members were at home, so I made them this very girly cake:

I'm not great at icing but do my best! I had imagined a mix of pink and red roses, but didn't like the look of the red ones on the cake after all, so I went over them again in pink.

I like roses altogether, both real and in all sorts of creations. Look at this I bought off Plumfish on Etsy:

These roses are crocheted in recycled sari silk, on a band of soy yarn. Very, very nice.

The pink-ness spilled over into some weekend knitting:

I used some yarn remnants to make squares for the Codepink radical act of knitting. Tomorrow I will send off ten squares. Too bad I can't jet off to the States and participate on the day, but aside from the financial implications, dh has football plans that weekend so I'll be in sole charge.

Oh, and I finished the Hexagons runner. I decided to go for the unquilted version and just top stitched round the edges. It looks great - very suitable for Spring :-)

Friday, 17 April 2009

The trouble with Hexagons...

I did some more work on my hexagons table runner this week. It isn't quite finished, but almost (just the top-stitching round the edge still to do). So here it is:

I was working from this pattern from Sew Hip issue 4:

I adapted the pattern to produce a longer runner to extend along my whole dining table.
I would suggest not cutting any other pieces until the patchwork panel is complete, and then measure and check sizes first. I say this because my hexagon patchwork piece was not as big as it should have been when complete.

I used the English paper-piecing method as I was not sure machine-stitching would deal with the Y-seams neatly. As the instructions said to use 1/4 seam allowances when machine-stitching the hexagons, I made a paper template which I thought was 1/4 in less than the Sew Hip template all round. I now think my template paper pieces must have been slightly too small and so each seam allowance was very slightly larger than 1/4 in. Over the 13 columns this made quite a difference to the size of the patchwork piece.

There is an error in the Sew Hip instructions. The birthing method of finishing a quilt is not described correctly in terms of layering the fabrics. If you sandwich the batting between the other fabrics with right sides facing as instructed in the magazine, you'll end up with the batting on the outside when you turn the quilt inside out!

Instead you should lay the backing fabric face up first, then the top fabric face down (so that the two right sides are facing). Then lay the batting on top of that. Stitch with the batting on the outside. See this birthing quilts tutorial for further help, it has pictures.

But my table runner is not quilted (at the moment!). Although I bought the thinnest wadding in John Lewis, I found my runner much too bulky when I turned it right side out, and so I removed the wadding. The reason I haven't done the top-stitching yet is that I haven't yet finally decided whether to go with the unquilted version, or to go in search of special tablecloth-weight batting.

I'll post the main errata on the Sew Hip Flickr group for others who might be planning to tackle this project.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Easter weekend

A few years ago I spent Easter in Germany, and since then I've adopted their custom of decorating a couple of trees in the garden.

As well as the decorations, we enjoyed the typical chocolate things:

Of course mine were dark chocolate. Since I find the millk version rather sickly-sweet (with a few exceptions).

Monday, 13 April 2009

Fresh Squeezed

Look what I have to work with now:

The patterned fabrics are Fresh Squeezed by Sandy Gervais for Moda.

Encouraged by I'm A Ginger Monkey, I'm going to use these for English paper-pieced hexagon patchwork. I did some reading first which suggests to get good results, all the hexagons must be precisely the same size, so I'm using cut-out paper hexagons from the pdf available at Cia's palette, enlarged using my printer (it was trial and error to get to the right size). I also looked at the helpful tutorial at Sunshine Creation's blog.

I cut out hexagons in fabric and paper at the weekend:

There's still quite a lot of green in this project. Obviously I'm still in my green period.
Progress reports to follow in due course.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Spring Greens

I seem to have an obsession with green at present.

I belong to the yarn powerhouse that is Ravelry, and made these fingerless mitts as part of a Spring Knitalong on there. I was going to give them away, but I like them so much, I'll have to keep them!

I made the mitts from the free Owlings pattern available from Destiknit. This design uses cables to create a subtle owls pattern. I used Rowan aran silk yarn. You can't see well in the picture, but the owls have beady eyes. The seed beads were too tiny to go on the yarn, as is proper in beaded knitting. So I sewed them on with a regular needle afterwards.

Another green item I made in the last couple of weeks is this skirt:

That's the first garment I sewed for myself since 1995. (And to add here, I have recently come back to sewing after a very long break. It's been eleven years since my sewing machine was in regular use)

I drafted the skirt pattern following instructions for the Breezy Wrap Skirt in Sew What! Skirts. The fabric is from Amy Butler's Midwest Modern range. I like the shape of the skirt, but if I made it again, I would cut it just a little smaller; I cannot tie the ties as tightly as I would like. I'm always so anxious not to make a garment too small, I tend to err on the side of too much generosity.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Return of the sewing machine

My sewing machine was in the repair shop for the last week. It's an early-80s vintage, mechanical Jones machine. Last week, in the middle of the dinosaur appliques (see below), it suddenly seized up and would not sew at all. I tried oil, tension adjustments, and cleaning lint out of feed dog and shuttle race, before giving in and phoning the sewing-machine shop. After all, it was 13 years since its last service [blush], although the last ten of those had been spent in a box in the loft.

I was bereft without the machine, especially since I had a planned week off work. I had to fall back on counted cross-stitch. [As an aside here: I do also have an unfinished knitting WIP, but who wants to finish an aran-weight cardigan in April?]

I picked up the repaired machine yesterday and this afternoon I tested it by finishing the dinosaur blanket.

The blanket was adapted from this pattern by Janet Clare in Sew Hip magazine issue 2:

It's the first time I ever tackled machine applique, or binding edges. My version only has binding on two sides, as I rather liked the vintage satin trims at top and bottom of my thrifted blanket. I also skipped the embroidery - I was using a smaller blanket than specified so I didn't have enough room between the dinosaurs. My son assures me he doesn't like writing anyway! I added the extra dinos at the blanket sides to compensate a little.

Blog? or not?

Just decided to set up a blog, and see if it actually gets used. I'll try it for a while, anyway.

I'm doing more sewing and knitting these days, and wanted to start posting my work online.