Sunday, 28 April 2013

I sewed!

When I started this blog (still contemplating a more attractive word), I didn't really take on board the fact that a fair few of the things I make are for books, so I can't talk about them when I make them: the publishers would be most unhappy. So, although over the last couple of months I have made quite a lot of things, I have only now made something I can show you immediately. (The book stuff will come in time...)

My pinafore looks vast in this photo...

As a statement of my firm belief that summer is finally here, I sewed myself a new pinafore. It's based on one that I bought a year or more ago and wore constantly last summer.

I drew out a pattern on brown paper and made a few changes from the original: widened the back a little, widened the shoulder straps, made the skirt a slight tulip shape with an asymmetric hem. I used a heavy cotton fabric in lichen-green from my stash (in fact, the whole project was entirely from stash; I can't decide if it's good that I have all this stuff to hand, or embarrassing for exactly the same reason). I bound the facings with red cotton bias binding and used the same binding to make a faced hem. I'm a big fan of finishing details, and of bias binding. (A brief distraction: do you know House of Alistair? Lovely bias binding.) I topstitched around the neckline and armholes using a new-to-me patchwork foot that I feel in my water is going to be much-loved.

The two guides are removable, giving you a truly multi-purpose foot.

The facings are bound with bias binding that's simply zigzagged on. I raided my button stash and decided that a collection of vintage pearl buttons would work as jewellery.

Jewellery on both straps, and lovely topstitching from my new foot.

The hem is faced using the hidden bias binding method in Me and My...

You'll have to take my word on it that the pinafore looks less lumpen, and less vast, on me than it does on the hanger. I'm very pleased with it and shall make myself another (I have complete stash for that, too...).

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Knitting with the Masters

This afternoon I shall be...

Just perfect. 
Though it's hard to keep my tension even at the colour changes when Dustin goes into meltdown. Will have to concentrate on Lefty instead.

Update: It was worse than I could have imagined; Dustin and Lefty both in meltdown. Other than that, it was great. And the Grand Prix on Sunday morning.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Sewing Bee

I don't watch reality television because seeing people being made unhappy makes me anxious. Similarly, I can't listen to the Today programme because an argument first thing in the morning puts me in a bad mood for the rest of the day, even if it's not an argument I'm involved in. And I don't watch horror or violent films because they frighten me, and I don't like being scared (even some bits of Buffy were too much). But for a sewing show I was prepared to risk misery.

It was tense! And I found myself making snitty comments about contestants' fabric/haberdashery choices and their cutting technique: not very nice of me – talk about fast descent to beast. A friend who works in the biz said that Love, the production company, always 'cast well', and that certainly shone through: some contestants seemed to have surprisingly poor technical skills/fabric savvy to be sewing on prime-time, but lots of tv-friendly 'character'. I realise that that is the point of choosing them, but my simple little mind would have liked more sewing expertise to relish.

The jump from A-line skirt and neckline alteration to fitted-dress-on-someone-you've-never-met-before seemed huge. I did feel for Tilly, faced with an FBA on such a fitted bodice. Do you think the models were chosen to influence the dress outcomes? Or is that overly cynical of me?

What was all that about the laundry bag? The worst set of fantastically brief instructions ever! What were the 'side pieces' for? Okay, I've just looked at the book on Amazon and there's a laundry bag in the contents list, so I guess it was a tie-in to that. A really rubbish tie-in. (I haven't seen the book yet: bad of me. The bidding war for the rights was so contested and protracted that I was offered editing work on it by three different publishers at various points, but was already committed to other books.)

The presenters were a bit humourless, but at least they weren't nasty to the sewers. Even though Michelle had cocked up her dress completely, she wasn't my choice for ejection as her other pieces didn't seem badly made: her neckline alteration wasn't perfect but it was ambitious and not at all dreadful considering the time allowed, and compared to some others. Was the ejection based on tv-character rather than sewing ability? Or is that overly cynical of me, again? Or am I just missing the point of the programme?

So, to Bee or not to Bee? (A dreadful pun that's going to be used everywhere, but curiously irresistible.) I think yes; I've set it to record. Will have to watch while knitting though, so I can concentrate on the needles if it gets nasty.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Knitting geek alert # 1

Having edited an abundance of knitting books by a wide variety of knitters for plenty of publishers, I've learned oodles of tips and tricks: some have become indispensable, others thrill my inner knitting geek, and some seem overly complicated for a not-very-good result. Now I'm sure that some of these tricks will be new/thrilling/indispensable only to me and actually well-known and rather dull to you, but in the spirit of knowledge shared...

Let's be entirely conventional and begin at the beginning with a slip knot. 

Images from Ultimate Knitting Bible by Sharon Brant (Collins & Brown)

1 With the tail end of the yarn in palm of your hand, wrap the ball end once around your fingers.
2 Slip a knitting needle under the loop around your fingers.
3 Wrap the ball end around the tip of the needle and pull a loop through the loop on your fingers.
4 Slip the loop off your fingers and pull on the ball end of the yarn to tighten the knot.

Does that look and sound familiar? It's the way most books show you to how to make a slip knot, and I made them this way for years. But as you have to tighten the knot by pulling on the ball end of the yarn, once you have cast on and knitted the first row it's impossible to easily tighten what will often be a loose first stitch (mine are always a bit baggy).

So I now make my slip knots this way.

1 Make a loop with the tail end of the yarn over the ball end.
2 Take the tail end under the loop.
3 Slip a knitting needle into the loop and under the tail end only.
4 Pull on the tail end of the yarn to tighten the knot.

This means that once you've knitted the first row, you can pull on the tail end of the yarn again to tighten the first cast on stitch should it be baggy. The only reason I can think of for not making slip knots this way is that the first stitch isn't locked off; theoretically I suppose it could come undone. I've never had an end work loose yet, and once the knitting is finished it'll be darned in, so it will be entirely secure. 

Does any one know any other reasons for not making your slip knot this way?