Monday, 26 June 2017

FO: The raspberry dress

This weekend, amid the chaos of several birthday parties, I decided that what I really wanted to do was sew a dress for my daughter. This has been on my to-do list for ages, and a few weeks ago I found a tutorial (in a sewing magazine) for turning a t-shirt into a dress (by adding a fabric skirt), so decided that was what I was going to do.

Yesterday afternoon I set to work, and started reading the tutorial, only to find that it was almost entirely useless: the only measurement given was that the skirt fabric should be four times the waist measurement, and there was no indication of whether that was the width across the waist, or around the waist, and nothing at all about how long the skirt should be. At which point I went upstairs to find one of my daughter's dresses in the right style and decided to make it up as I went along.

The dress I was working from had pockets, and as I love having pockets in all my clothing I decided to stretch myself and draft some pockets. I had a roll of pattern paper to hand, which made the job a lot easier, but I essentially took the measurements from the dress I had to hand and transferred them to the paper, and quite quickly had a template for the front and back of the skirt and some pockets, and got to work cutting the fabric.

The fabric I chose to use was super-cheap - an IKEA duvet cover that was in the sale a couple of years ago - and features a busy raspberry-print, which works any way up, avoiding the need for pattern-matching. I decided to use French seams (which are enclosed - I don't have an overlocker, and hate finishing seams, so this is my preferred method), and quite quickly managed to create the pockets and attach them to the skirt front (although I did have a moment of panic when I pressed one pocket inside out, so it didn't fit at all!). Seaming the front and back of the skirt together once the pockets were in place was easy (I stitched the tops and sides of the pockets in place on the overlap with the skirt front to stop them moving around), and only took a few minutes.

The challenge started when I had to attach the skirt to the top. The skirt is made of non-stretchy fabric and the t-shirt is jersey (which stretches), and is not something I have worked with before. My sewing machine is pretty basic, and doesn't have an overlocking stitch, so I used a zig-zag stitch (to allow the stitching to move with the t-shirt as it's worn), and after gathering and pinning the skirt, I managed to sew the t-shirt on inside out, then spent the rest of the evening unpicking and repinning (I used a lot more pins the second time round to stop the gathers shifting). Oops.

This morning I was up bright and early, so quickly stitched the skirt and t-shirt together, and hemmed the skirt, then managed to convince my daughter to wear it (she initially said she wanted to wear it tomorrow, which usually means she isn't keen on something). And I think she likes it. She certainly likes the pockets - they are perfect for collecting clover flowers, which our garden is full of at the minute!

The dress is not perfect. There is a bit of a wobble at the back in the seam joining the top and bottom of the dress, and the gathers could be more even. Also, the zig-zag stitch isn't doing very well at supporting the weight of the skirt, so I might go over the stitching with a straight stretch stitch when she takes it off at bedtime. But it's certainly not a bad first attempt. And now I have the pattern pieces, I foresee a few more dresses appearing in the future! I also want to make something for myself - maybe a skirt with pockets now I know how to do them.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Yarning Along: Hello Summer!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Snuffle, snuffle: Hedgehog and Hoglets available now!

Some of you may remember that last October I had a pattern published in Knit Now for a blanket featuring three hedgehogs. Well, the rights have reverted to me and the pattern is now available in my Ravelry store.

I have always loved hedgehogs - something that probably started with my mum reading The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle to me when I was little - and a quick search on Pinterest will always bring up a lot of beautiful images of woodland-themed nurseries, so I thought that hedgehogs would make an excellent image for a baby blanket. The Hedgehog and Hoglets blanket features a cute little hedgehog family, with two baby hedgehogs (hoglets) following their mum.

This blanket is knitted in one piece from the bottom up, with a moss stitch border knitted at the same time as the rest of the blanket, so once you've finished knitting the only finishing required is darning in the ends. The hedgehogs are knitted into the blanket using the intarsia technique; the facial features can either be knitted in, or added at the end using duplicate stitch.

As an experiment, I have included written instructions for the intarsia portion of the blanket, as well as the usual charts. If this approach is successful I'll start including written instructions for all my future intarsia designs, so let me know in the comments if this is something you'd like to see more of.

Head to my Ravelry store to pick up your copy. If you use the code SNUFFLE you'll be able to buy the pattern for £3.25, rather than the usual price of £4 (the code is valid until 11.59pm BST, Friday June 30th 2017). If you start knitting now you might even have time to finish the blanket in time to gift it to an autumn arrival! 

Like the blanket, but would prefer it if the background was a different colour? The blanket is knitted in a standard aran-weight yarn (the sample is knitted in King Cole Fashion Aran*), so you can use any aran weight yarn you would like. I would recommend using a machine washable wool or wool/acrylic blend yarn to make the blanket easy to care for.

Beige not your thing? Feel free to choose any colours you'd prefer!

As ever, I would love to see your finished blanket. You can share pictures via Ravelry or Love Knitting by linking your finished project to the pattern page, or via Instagram by tagging your image #vikkibirddesigns

Happy knitting!

*Affiliate link.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Sitting still and finding shade

Today it is too hot to do anything, including knit, read, cook, in fact anything beyond sitting. In a strange twist of fate I have nothing urgent to knit, so am quite happy to spend a day just sitting. I did sew some buttons on to the short-sleeved sample of my Barley Twist cardigan (pattern coming next month), and that's quite enough work for the time being. I have spent the afternoon sat in the shade at soft play, contemplating ice cream.

My brother has been to visit this weekend, and yesterday we took a picnic to the Bowes Musuem in Barnard Castle. The Bowes Musuem is a building built as a museum and to look like a French chateau, which is a little surreal in Teesdale - certainly not in keeping with the surrounding architecture - and it is an amazing treasure trove of artwork and exhibits, not least the large silver swan automaton that is forms the centre of the collection. The swan was built by clockmakers 245 years ago, and its 30 second sequence is played at 2pm every day; my kids were impressed, which is saying something! The other thing the kids really enjoyed was the kids quiz sheet (possibly because of the promised prize of a lollipop), and they each whizzed round the building looking for the exhibits shown in the clues. Definitely somewhere to go back to another day!

Hopefully my knitting mojo will return in the next day or two. This is the week to think about Christmas knits, so I can get them published in time for the start of September. There's nothing quite like knitting an adult-sized aran-weight jumper in June... For the time being though, if you want me I'll be hiding indoors reading a book.

Stay cool everyone!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Yarning Along: Whistling by!

The past week has whistled by, I genuinely have no idea where it's gone. When I last posted it was election night, and I was looking forward to spending the evening and early hours knitting away busily, which I proceeded to do. After the exit poll predicting a hung parliament, seats were called rather slower than usual, so I knitted my Barley Twist sample until 12.30, then called it a day and went to bed. I don't think I slept terribly well, and got up at 5 to watch the declarations for the final few seats, and spent the rest of the day, and large portions of this week, following the fall-out on the radio, TV, and internet.

All the time I have spent watching election coverage this week probably goes some way to explaining why I have read so little. I am still reading The Lake House by Kate Morton, and am enjoying it, not that I have much to show for my limited reading time this week. At the current rate of reading, borrowing a book from the library last week looks excessively optimistic...

My knitting time this week has been dedicated to knitting a sample for a magazine, which I'll get to share with you in the autumn. Yesterday I finally got back to my Barley Twist sample and now have a completed yoke and a decent amount of the body done. I have a couple of weeks until the pattern launches in my Ravelry store, so plenty of time, especially as the cardigan is in aran-weight yarn, and only in age 2! I spent a lovely hour or so sat in the garden yesterday knitting, accompanied by my shiny new Griffindor bag, which is perfect for throwing knitting in when I'm out and about.

One thing I have been enjoying this week is watching all the bees pollinating the flowers. Every morning on our walk to and from school my daughter delights in bending down to sniff the flowers and watch the bees. She finds them fascinating, and they are absolutely everywhere at the minute - mostly huge fat bumble bees - so there are plenty of opportunities for bee-watching!
What have you been excited about this week?
Joining in with Rachel for Yarning Along.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Election-night knitting

Today there is a general election in the UK, and while anyone sensible will go to bed at the normal time, sleep soundly and wake up to the result in the morning, I am a bit of a stats geek (I have a doctorate in physics, it goes with the territory), so will stay up way too late and watch the results unfold.

Of course my night of election stats will be accompanied by some knitting, and here's how I think my knitting will unfold.

10pm-midnight: Polls close at 10, so the first couple of hours of the results coverage are purely speculative, based on the exit polls, which are notorious for being wrong. Interviews will be with journalists and pollsters. This is the perfect time to get on with some more complex knitting. I shall be casting on a final test knit for my Barley Twist pattern,* and am hoping to get a decent portion of the yoke done by midnight.

My plan for early on in the election night coverage

Midnight-2am: By now a few of the results will be in, certainly not enough to give a proper picture of what the result in the morning will be, but the interviews will be slightly more detailed. By now it will be past my usual bedtime, and tiredness will be kicking in. Now is a good time to move on to some simpler knitting - a nice vanilla sock or a garter stitch shawl (ideally in a bright colour so you can see dropped stitches easily). I might have to cast on the second of my pink striped socks during the day today so I have something for this period of the night.

Bright striped vanilla socks are ideal for knitting on when you're tired

2am onwards: The results start coming in faster from 2am, and often it becomes more obvious where the election is heading. By now any knitting is a pretence - I'll be too tired to do anything terribly sensible, and I'll be paying more attention to the results. I'll stay awake until some of the seats of personal significance have been declared (repeatedly saying phrases such as 'I'll be up after the next seat has been declared', then staying up for another two hours), crawl to bed, missing the part of the night (3am-6am) when most of the results come in. 

Friday morning: When I get up tomorrow the result will probably have been declared, and I'll spend tomorrow morning sleepily looking through the results. I don't imagine a huge amount of knitting will get done (and there may be mistakes form the night before that need fixing) but a lot of coffee will be drunk!

One day I will learn to go for the opposite approach of having a long nap on Thursday evening and getting back up at midnight for the results... As it is, I will be using the baking I did with the kids this morning while it rained as sustenance to keep me awake!

Chocolate and cheesy bread; perfect late-night snacks

Are you staying up to watch the results come in? Or being sensible and waiting for the result in the morning?

*The pattern will be available next month. If you want to be notified when it goes on sale, sign up to my newsletter.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Rain, rain go away...

This week has been a bitty one: it poured with rain all day on Monday and Tuesday (making the school runs super-fun), and today it's blowing a gale. Tomorrow my son's school is shut for the general election,* so we're totally out of routine, and it's all a bit chaotic, but I'm sure we'll survive.

I spent this morning at soft play (it's too windy to play outside today) with my latest project and my latest read. The project is a commission, so this is all you're getting: some beautifully soft Merino DK from Yarn Stories.** The book is Love At First Stitch by Tilly Walnes, which I've been wanting to get a copy of for ages!

The cute bookmark that came with my book order

It was my birthday a couple of months ago and I got a book token from my mum, which is a huge treat as far as I'm concerned. I love getting book tokens as they give me an excuse to browse in book shops. I have visited a couple of book shops since my birthday, but none of them had Tilly Walnes' book, which was what I was thinking of buying. I was about to give up and buy it online from Amazon (I had Amazon vouchers too, but I had mentally assigned those to new shoes), when it occurred to me to check whether you can use book tokens online and it turns out you can, hooray! So I ordered a copy, which arrived last week, and took it out with me this morning to browse while I knitted.
I really had planned only to have a bit of a look at the pattern pictures, and make a mental to do list from the book, but I started reading the introduction and got hooked. I've read the first 50 or so pages, and even though I've been sewing for years I've picked up a few hints and tips (such as securing the end of the stitching on a dart by hand-tying a double knot rather than by reverse-stitching; and using shorter stitches when navigating curves), so I'm looking forward to reading the rest, and might even make a few projects from it - I might start with the Margot pyjama bottoms.

Lovely tutorial photos

I have been itching to do some sewing this week, and at the weekend I bought a magazine aimed at beginner sewists as I liked the patterns that come with it. There's also a tutorial inside to make a children's dress out of a t-shirt and a long strip of fabric (the tutorial was originally from Make it, Own it, Love it by Matt Chapple). My daughter has plenty of dresses in a similar style in her wardrobe and she wears them a lot, so this afternoon I bought a couple of plain t-shirts from Asda's school range to turn into cute summer dresses. Hopefully I'll get at least one stitched this weekend.

Cute dress idea! I might switch the skirt to a gathered one rather than pleats

Having read this, you may wonder how I'm getting on with the project and book I shared last week for Yarning Along? Well, I have managed about 50 pages of the book, and I am enjoying it, but not as much as Kate Morton's other books, I have no idea why as the styles are very similar. Maybe it's something as simple as the book being a rather heavy hardback? I have finished the first pink striped sock though, and promptly stole the needle for another project. I have added another 2 mm circular to my Love Knitting** basket, and I'll probably place an order tonight so I can work on both projects at the same time - I seem to be lacking vanilla knitting at the minute.

As ever, linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along. Head over to her post to see posts from other bloggers on crafting and reading. Happy crafting.

*If you live in the UK and are registered to vote, go and vote; whatever you may think, your vote does count and you should make your voice heard.
**Affiliate link.