It's Vicki here and today on the blog we have another very special guest post by the lovely Aimee from the fab creative blog Wrong Doll. If you didnt read Aimee's first guest post for us - Dungaree Dreams - go check it out! But for today we have a very special project to show you using our Viscose Jersey Fabric and Marcy Tilton's Sewing Pattern for Vogue, 8813.
I'll now pass the post over to Aimee, enjoy!!...
I'm an uneasy mix of risk averse with a strong streak of 'I'll do what I damn well like'. However, age has mellowed the thrill seeker in me and these days I'm much less likely to act out on a hedonistic endorphin fueled whim. Now I've worked out the ingredients for a relatively peaceful life, I'm in no rush to seek out unnecessary change or challenge. Nevertheless, sewing has unleashed a creativity in me that is willing to face the fear of the unknown. And I've discovered that hand in glove with the fear comes learning and no matter how painful the process, it's a prize worth stepping out of your comfort zone for.
I know I'm not alone in my fear of knits – social media is awash with comrades. It's also bursting with knowledge and countless instructional blogs - I'm particularly thankful to top tips gleaned from Wendy Ward, Serger Pepper and make it HANDMADE. Ultimately I learn from doing and in retrospect, I probably shouldn't have set out on this journey of discovery, using the most beautiful threads I've clapped eyes on. I dropped on so lucky with this fabric in the Minerva Crafts sale – 3 metres of drapey viscose stretch Jersey Fabric loveliness for a mere £20.97. I'd long been considering the perfect pairing for Marcy Tilton Vogue 8813 and as soon as I saw it, the die was cast.
It was only in the afterglow that I realised I had embarked on a battle with my nemesis, without full consideration of the requisite skilling up. So I threw myself down a Google rabbit hole and drove myself to distraction, devouring wisdoms learned from the mistakes of those who've preceded me. Whilst a novice to knits, this is my third Marcy so I felt familiar with her style and followed the markings like a road map, unravelling its secrets. The pattern is marked easy and I would have to concur, as I was only hampered by my inexperience with the medium.
One thing I have learnt on my sewing journey so far, is that fine tools maketh good workwomanship, so I invested in a few – a pack of Hancock's cloth markers, ballpoint pins and ballpoint sewing needles. I recently read a critique of a vegan gravy that dismissed it as 'tasting of nothing', after which the reviewer wondered if it was beacause they had omitted the nutritional yeast. Well of course it was – it's the key ingredient. I wasn't going to make the same mistake and painstakingly transferred all the pattern markings on to the fabric. I've learnt that those big circles and small circles are differentiated for a reason. For a while I was feeling rather smug - the key ingredient for sewing with knits was learning a few simple techniques and adhering to them.
And then I came to the central panel and my undoing. I've never been a fan of gathering or anything too fiddly that requires patience and attention to detail. I like working with structured fabrics where you can make bold statements with ease – maximum effect with minimum effort. Marcy walks you through the gathers – advising zig zagging over perle cotton, securing at one end, gathering, setting with steam and stitching either side of the zig zags. I'm sure the fault lies with the user and not the method, as it's worked a treat for many more experienced than I. But after stitching, my gathers completely disintegrated and I had to abort mission.
That was only after sewing 6 rows of lightening bolt across the front of this delicate fabric and anyone who's tried to unpick this stitch will feel my pain. I was on the verge of a complete first world problems meltdown and would have cried – except this would have eaten into valuable sewing time. At this point I should have downed tools and returned another day with fresh eyes and enthusiasm. But I motored on and unpicked every single tiny stich, with the fabric remaining remarkably unscathed until the last section. I punctured it due to extreme tiredness and frustration and the damn almost burst, until I realised I had enough fabric left to re cut the panel if required and I steeled myself for a lock-in. I sewed two rows of basting stich on either side of each gathering line, pulled to size and zig zagged a couple of times over the middle to secure them in place. And then I did what I should have done a long time before and stepped away from the sewing table.
During some very necessary time out, I reflected on the ungathering and it's potential causes. I'm wondering if securing the gathers with lightening bolt stitch the first time around was erroneous – all that backwards and forwarding over such delicate fabric? I'd love to hear your advice on this one – what stitch would you have used? And whilst we're on the subject of lightening stitch, can you back stitch (I couldn't) or is that built into the stitch itself? So many questions … I also had the joys of material disappearing down the throat plate not once but three glorious times and couldn't work out why. However, towards the end of the project I discovered I'd been using Singer bobbins in my Janome, so that's a whole different fly to add to the ointment.
When I returned to the table, completion was relatively smooth. I raced to the finish utilising tips I'd picked up along the way; reducing tension on my sewing machine to a 3; using a stretch needle, periodically using the walking foot and increasing the lightening bolt stitch width to 2, for a neater top stitch. I also spent a little time tinkering with my overlocker and a differential feed of 1.75 eliminated any fabric stretch. What I am disappointed by is my insides – they fall quite short of my exacting standards and I won't be urging people to inspect them anytime soon. Except I probably will, as it's my wont to draw people's attention to my mistakes.
This project has underlined the need for some dedicated one-on-one serger time. I'm never quite sure where to place the fabric in terms of the cutting blade and my chaining off could do with refinement. Fortunately I won a Janome masterclass for my entry in the Love Sewing Sticher of the Year competition, so I'm determined to face another fear next year, book on a day course and work on this relationship.
Another fear I need to face head on is stabalising – when to, how to and what to use? I had a bash on the shoulder seams and sewed in some clear elastic. In hindsight, I probably should have serged this into the seam allowance but thankfully it hasn't resulted in any unwanted bulk. I'd be interested to hear if anyone has stabalised the neckline on this pattern and if so, what you used? It's cut on the bias and with all that handling is prone to waviness. I was wondering about using some knit interfacing but after the gathering fiasco I was overwhelmed with option paralysis and my spirit for adventure was spent.
Whilst I always intend to put the breaks on, I got to a point where the desire to see the finished product overtook the need to take it slow and steady. Now it's finished, I can take a step back and see it for what it is – a dress and not my complete life's work. The heartache is a dim memory, the insides really nowhere near as shabby as I thought and I'm feeling pretty triumphant. This is by far the prettiest, swishiest and most luxiourious feeling garment I've made to date. Have I vanquished my fear of sewing with knits? No. Would I sew with them again? A resounding yes. But not before I've perfected seam finishing and experimented further with stretch stitches on my machine.
A final word on the pattern – I absolutely adore it. It's deserving of multiple re-visits and for my second iteration I'll be using a more structured fabric but that's nothing to do with the fear – I just want to take those pockets to their absolute extremeties.
Posted in Guest Posts on Thursday the 17th November 2016 by Vicki Ormerod
It's Vicki here and today on the blog we have a very special guest post by the lovely Aimee from the fab creative blog called Wrong Doll. Please go and check out her blog for more of her gorgeous makes, but for today we have a very special project to show you here on the Minerva Crafts Blog using our distressed Denim Fabric from Art Gallery.
I'll now pass the post over to Aimee, enjoy!!...
My love affair with the pinafore extends way back into my childhood days and when I started sewing a couple of years ago, I dreamt of making one of my own. 6 months later, I came across Art Gallery Fabrics and their Denim Studio range in Love Sewing Magazine and I had my fabric of choice. It took another year until I had the confidence to attempt a Victory patterns/Kwik Sew mash up, melding the Madeleine skirt with the K4138 dungaree bib. The resulting dungagree dress is my proudest make to date and even got me a mention in Love Sewing’s Stitcher of the Year category.
Having achieved a longheld dream, I disappeared down a Google rabbit hole in search of dungaree dress patterns and found them to be in woefully short supply. So I was ecstatic when I happened across a vintage multi-size Maudella pattern on a late night eBay trawl. Initial excitement turned to dismay, when I realised the delicate pattern tissues had been cut into. Thankfully, the previous owner had left the excess strips attached at the base of each piece, so I was able to painstakingly re-attach them.
Having re-instated the pattern at its extremities, I graded the skirt waist up from a size 16 to 18 by adding 1cm to the sides. Confusingly, I only had to add 0.5 cm to the sides of the waistband but maths isn’t my strong point and I decided not to labour the point. I cut the bib on a size 12 and ignored the fact it seemed a little shy - barely spanning from point to point - assuming this was reflective of vintage stylings. However, I recently discovered on a pattern cutting course, that I’ve been working from a bust mis-measurement for the last two years and should have cut on a 14. Thankfully, the disparity in measurements hasn’t affected my handmade wardrobe to date, with my propensity for loose fitting Japanese tent dresses.
In the past, I’ve made the mistake of believing what looks good on the pattern envelope will look good on me. But not this time – I’ve learnt the error of my ways. I don’t do mini and I don’t do mustard. I extended the skirt length by 4cm and eschewed yellow for blue. But not just any old blue. For a pattern of such provenance, I felt myself being pulled back to those textured denims and I scoured the internet for a UK supplier. Minerva Crafts stood out with their huge range and maximum bang for your buck, with free postage for fabrics over £20.
For my first dungaree dress, I bought 3 metres of Scarlet Brick and it felt like a massive indulgence. However, when the fabric arrived I can attest to the tag line – you really can ‘feel the difference’! So, this time around there was a noticeable absence of hesitancy – the only question was what to choose from such an enticing array. In the end, I plumped for 2 metres of Distress Denim Fabric Rainy Night which lived up to my expectations and then some. I also pushed the boat out and changed my overlocker threads to four shades of grey, as recommended by May Martin at The Big Simplicity Blog Meet earlier in the year. And it worked a treat – they blend in perfectly and are a pleasing change from the green I’ve refused to deviate from, due to a strong case of 'overlocker rethreading anxiety' – it’s a thing, trust me.
Initially I’d planned to add in-seam pockets and I know I’m in good company when it comes to pocket love – whenever they make an appearance on Instagram, a social storm of appreciation gets whipped up. But my fella pointed out they could interfere with the thigh skimming lines of the skirt and I had to admit he was right – this was an exception to the rule that pockets make EVERYTHING better. I stayed true to the pattern instructions apart from turning under the waistband facing - I overlocked the edges instead and attached to the waistband by stitching in the ditch. And I eschewed what looks like a lapped zip for my first invisible zip, guided expertly by the instructions in Wendy Ward’s latest book – A Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts.
So, here is my second dungaree dress in what promises to be a series – I just can’t get enough of them! Thanks to Minerva Crafts for the denim and giving me the opportunity to write my first guest blog and share my dungaree dreams.
Within a few weeks of the Tinsel Hedgehog pattern arriving at Minerva from King Cole, another pattern arrived - this time for a beautifully cute owl! This just had to be another “Will” project, for my five year old, animal-mad grandson.
As with the Hedgehog pattern, this pattern for the Owl shows three sizes and can again be worked in any of the twelve colours of King Cole Tinsel Chunky Yarn. Which combination of size and colour would you choose? Just makes you want to get started and knit a whole family of them, doesn’t it?
Again, as for the Hedgehog I knit, I decided to go the more realistic route in my choice of colour, and as I had already used the copper tinsel, it was either going to have to be bronze (to make him into a sort of Barn Owl) or white ( he would look great as a Snowy Owl). As you can see from the picture above, I chose to go with the Snowy Owl. As a toy for a young child, using the white could have “keeping clean” issues, but if all the materials you use are washable, it should be possible to spruce him up if needed.
The materials used were as follows: 1 x 50gm ball of King Cole Tinsel Chunky in White, 1 x 25gm ball of King Cole Dollymix in White for the face panel, 1 x 25gm ball of Dollymix in Gold for the eyes, 1 x 25gm ball of Dollymix in Clerical (grey) for the beak and feet, a pair of size 5mm knitting needles (old size 6), a pair of size 3mm knitting needles (old size 11), a size 3mm crochet hook (old size 11), two shank buttons for the eyes and polyester washable toy filling.
I don’t know about other people, but I seem to have a “problem” when choosing what projects to work on next. I adore looking at knitting and crochet patterns, all the beautiful yarns, their colours and textures, etc. – and I love looking at manufactured clothing, home decor products and interior design ideas as well , as inspiration for colour and design. My problem is that I can usually see a basic idea but there will always be some aspects of it that aren’t just what I’m looking for! Do you recognise that feeling?
I always seem to be thinking:
“Well that bit’s fine, but could I alter it here?” or
“Could I create this idea but in a different material?” or
“Can I alter the size of this?” or
“Oooh, I love this product, but could I use it to create something else?” etc, etc.
So, over many years, I have adopted the attitude that even if you try out something and it doesn’t quite work, you’ve had a great learning curve along the way. At the end of the day, at least with knitting and crocheting, it’s probably only a few balls of wool that need pulling back! I now know, thanks to a great tip from a crafty friend, that all my “kinky” wool doesn’t need to be a problem either, because there is a very clever way to get rid of them. I will explain what this is, and how to do it, in another post in the near future.
All of the above preamble was really getting round to saying that, although I loved the idea of the owl, I was not really keen on the face panel as on the pattern (shown above). An idea came to mind which I’ll explain to you as we progress. I also wondered if it might be possible to give him a couple of wings as well, so I might try that too.
As I was going to play around a little, I decided that the largest owl would be the best one to make, as it gives me a bigger area to work with.
One ball of yarn (as per the pattern) is enough to knit the large body, but until I’d knitted it, I wouldn’t know how much would be left.
You can see on the photograph there was some, but whether it will be enough or not I’ll have to wait and see . I decided to concentrate on the owl as he was on the pattern, and think about “ wings” later.
It didn’t take long to knit the body and I decided this time, unlike with Herbie, that I would sew up and stuff the body first so that I could see what size I would be working with, in order to create my own eye pieces.
The body was knitted in stocking stitch, and in most cases you would probably sew something up so that the smooth side (ie: knit stitch side) is classed as the right side. The pattern does not actually tell you which way to sew it, but I decided I preferred the purl side on the outside – it seemed to show the tinsel effect off a little better (making it look more fluffy!) So I sewed knit sides face to face, then turned it inside out to stuff it. Also, normally, you would think that your cast on edge would be at the bottom of whatever it is you are knitting, but in this case the cast on edge is the top the head and the cast off edge is the base.
I would say the finished height of the owl is approx 25cm/10ins (it does not actually tell you the heights of the different owls on the pattern).
Next I decided to knit the owl’s feet as instructed.
Whilst I was knitting the feet for the Hedgehog, I must admit that the instructions seemed a bit strange, but stick with me, and hopefully I can make things a little clearer for you. They are exactly the same one’s for the owl’s feet. So I decided in this post I would try, with step-by-step instructions and photographs, to explain just what they mean.
Casting on and the first two rows are straightforward, but for some people Row 3 may confuse you. First of all knit 5 stitches, then knit 2 more. Cast the second of these off over the first one. Knit next stitch, then cast it off over the previous stitch. Continue like this until you have 4 stitches remaining on the left-hand needle (you will also have 1 stitch on your right-hand needle). Knit 4 stitches, which then gives you 5 stitches at the end of the row.
On the next row (Row 4 on the owl pattern), knit 5 stitches then turn your work. Using the two needle method, cast on 20 stitches, ie: put the right-hand needle into the first stitch of the 5, knitwise; wrap the yarn round the tip of the right-hand needle; bring the right-hand needle to the front of the work but instead of slipping the stitch off the left- hand needle(as you would for an ordinary knit stitch), slip the loop formed back on to the left-hand needle. Repeat 19 times to create your 20 new stitches.
ON THE OWL PATTERN THERE IS ACTUALLY A MISTAKE AS IT DOES NOT TELL YOU TO TURN YOUR WORK AGAIN, BUT YOU NEED TO DO THIS TO BE ABLE TO KNIT THE REMAINING 5 STITCHES OF THE ROW. When you have turned, knit the 5 stitches that are remaining on what is now your left-hand needle.
Work 2 knit rows and then repeat the cast off/cast on rows again.
Work another 2 knit rows, then cast off all stitches. You now have a finished foot piece which you might think looks a little strange.
When you fold the finished piece in half you can easily see how it will create a foot. Simply overstitch all around the edges to give Ollie his three toes.
Now it was time to consider what to do about the eye panels.
I really didn’t like the look of them knitted in garter stitch as per the pattern, so I wondered what they might look like if I crocheted something instead, as it is easy to create circular pieces of crochet.
I decided to use a deep yellow yarn, as Snowy owls often have vivid yellow eyes with a deep black centre. To achieve the centre I was going to add some shank buttons at a later stage.
Here are the instructions for the eye panels, with photographs of the various stages to help you:
Using the gold yarn and 3mm crochet hook, make 5 chains (ch), join with a slipstitch (s/s)
1st Row: Make 2 ch, work 8 double crochet (dc) into the centre of the ring, join with s/s (9 stitches). Make sure there is a reasonable sized hole left in the centre. You need to be able to fit the shank of the button through it when the pieces are completed.
2nd Row: Make 2 ch, work 1dc into 1st dc of previous row, then work 2 dc into each dc of previous row, join with s/s (18 stitches)
3rd Row: Make 2 ch, work as for Row 2, but do not make s/s at end of the round. (If you make this stitch in gold, it will show in the next round which is going to be white). Break off the gold yarn.
Using white yarn, continue as follows – join to beginning chain of previous row with a s/s
4th Row: Make 2 ch. Work 1 treble (tr) into each stitch of previous row, to end, joining with s/s (36 stitches)
5th Row: Make 2 ch.* Work 1 tr into each of next 2 sts, work 2 tr in next st*, repeat from * to * to end of row, join with s/s (48 stitches)
Next, make 2 ch, then work 1 tr into each of the next 4 stitches. Remove hook from the stitch and pull the loop of this last stitch until it is a reasonable size (this is only to prevent the work being pulled back until the other eye piece has been worked). Break off yarn, leaving about a 30cm tail after the loop.
Now you need to make another piece exactly like this one, including the loop at the end.
Take hold of the two eye panels, placing them back to back, wrong sides together. Put your hook through the loop of the back panel which will be on the right-hand side. Next put the hook through the top of the stitch of the front panel as shown on the photograph (this will be at the opposite end of the joining sts to the loop}. Pull the yarn of the back loop until it is closed up against the needle ready to work. Using this tail of yarn, wrap it round the needle and pull it through all the loops. Using the same piece of yarn, work 1 dc through each of the next 3 tr on both panels together. Now, put the hook through all of the following at the same time: the top ch of the turning ch on the front panel, the last tr on the back panel and, at the same time, the large loop left previously on the front panel. Put yarn round the hook and pull through all loops. At the same time pull the tail of the front panel taut. Tie together with a couple of knots. These tails can now be used to sew the panels onto the owl’s body.
This has now created a ridge on the front side of the panels which can be used to help to attach the beak.
The button eyes can now be inserted in the holes in the centre of each panel. (If the shank of the buttons will not fit easily into the holes, using a pencil or pen tip, twist this in the hole to make it a little bigger). Once they fit through they can be attached by sewing them, through the hole in the button shank, onto the back of each panel.
Place the eye panels on the front of the owl’s body (I didn’t really think there was a definite front or back to the body so either side should be ok). Play around until you are happy with their location, then pin in place - I only used 4 pins, one top and one bottom on each eye panel.
Take one of the long ends left at the end of joining the two panels together. Thread this in a wool needle and make a few stitches to attach the beak area to the body. Next, if you look carefully at your crocheted panels, you will see that there are two distinct rounds of stitches worked in white. Using the line between the two rows as a guide, and using backstitch, sew all round the eye section. Fasten off. Using the other long length of yarn, repeat for the other eye.
You should now have an owl face with attitude, even if he is still missing a beak!
This is a straightforward knitted triangle, which I knitted in grey. It doesn’t say on the pattern which way out to turn this, but I decided that it looked more like the texture of a beak if it was used with the purl side outside. Using the tail from either casting on or off, sew the decreased edges together to form a little cone-shaped piece. I did this by oversewing the edges on the right side. Again I felt this added to the textural effect.
Fill the beak with a small amount of stuffing, making sure you get some right down to the point, without poking right through the end!
Using your fingers and thumbs, I found that if I you gently coax the pointed end, you can actually create a bit of a bend, or hook, in the end of the beak.
Using the remaining yarn at the end of the beak, and using the ridge on the eye panel to help, attach it to the owl’s face.
To attach the feet I turned the owl upside down and faced the feet to the front but splayed them slightly to face outwards .When I had decided they looked alright, I then flipped them over to face backwards and pinned them to the body (they will slightly cross over one another at this point). This only needed one pin, but it just made sure it wouldn’t move whilst I was trying to sew them on. Using small overstitches I sewed along the straight edge of the foot. Then I turned the foot back towards the front of the owl and stitched along the straight edge again, then fastened it off securely. I tried to make sure that both the beak and the feet were sewn on quite securely as I had visions of Ollie being transported by his young owner using one or other of these appendages!!!
Once I had finished Ollie I decided that he could look even more cute if he did have wings. I had a little bit of yarn left, but obviously if I tried making them, I would have to have enough for two! My philosophy was that it was not going to take long to knit a piece the size I was going to need, so – just go for it! What did I really have to lose?
To keep it simple I thought that a triangular shape might work for this, like it did for the beak. A bigger triangle with the straight edge at the top, then fold it in half to create a straight edge at one side and a tapered edge at the other. I didn’t know at this point whether I would end up putting any stuffing in it or not, that could be decided later.
The instructions for the wing I decided to make are as follows:
Using the Tinsel yarn and 5mm needles (as for the main body), cast on 6 sts.
Starting with a knit row, and working in stocking stitch(1 row knit, 1 row purl), increase 1 st at each end of every row for 9 rows (24 sts).
Next Row: ** Purl
Next Row: Increase 1 st at each end of knit row**
Repeat from ** to ** 3 times (30 sts)
Work a further 9 rows in stocking stitch.
Cast off knitwise.
Once I had knitted this piece I could see there was enough yarn left to knit the other wing. Pheww!! as by now I was really quite sure that I wanted him to have wings.
I folded the wing piece in half, and as with the body, placed the knit sides together . I then stitched it along the angled side. Next, I turned it inside out and placed it at the side of the body. The decision now would be to see whether I thought it needed any stuffing inserting, or would it look alright as it was. I decided on a half-way house – it needed something but not too much. I also decided, by placing it on the side of his body, that it was probably going to be a bit wide across the top edge to sit comfortably in position. So, rather than pulling it back and re-designing the shape, I decided to try running the sewing-up thread along the top straight edge, thinking that once I had put a bit of stuffing inside, I could perhaps gather it up, thus reducing its length. I love it when a plan comes together!!! It did work- really well!
Gathering along the top of the wing piece gave it a better, more realistic shape, and with not too much stuffing it should mean that the wing would not stick out from the body at right angles!
I now needed to decide where to attach the wings to the body. As with other parts of the project, this is really down to personal preference. Play around with some pins and try them in various places. So long as they are both about the same height on each side it should be fine. I was thinking, that as with the feet and the beak, the wings may well end up being used as a means to carry him around, so the important thing is to make sure you sew them on securely.
So, there we are! One finished owl with some innovations. I must say I am extremely pleased with how he has turned out. I personally feel that the crocheted eye panels give him much more character, emphasising the roundness of an owl’s eyes. By sewing round the inner ring of stitches, it makes the outer row of crochet stand out, almost representing a frill of feathers on his face.
I am also really glad that there was enough yarn left to have a “play” and give him some wings, although he is still cute without them! If, for some reason, you did not have enough yarn left, then if you had to use another ball, I am sure that you could always find someone else who would also love a cuddly owl, or that the recipient of the first one wouldn’t mind a “family” of them! Remember, this was the largest one, the others won’t take as much.
I hope that you have enjoyed following this post, and if it encourages some of you to have a go at tweaking one or two of your own patterns, then I will be very pleased. Sometimes it only needs a small variation to make something your own and stand out from the crowd!
I look forward to bringing you another project soon,
Bye till then and happy crafting
Posted in Guest Posts on Thursday the 26th November 2015 by Anne Hall
Hi there. I’m Anne Hall and I work at the Minerva Craft Centre in Darwen, Lancashire.
I have always been fascinated by anything to do with colour, so just looking at shelves full of coloured wool or fabric every day is a real treat.
Ever since I was a little girl I used to love colouring in, either drawing my own pictures or competing with my three sisters to see who could be the best one at keeping in the lines in our colouring books! It must have been genetic, as my mum was exactly the same, she always enjoyed the wonder of colour and how it could lift your spirits!
However, it wasn’t just colour. She also had a great love for all things creative, whether it was drawing, painting, gardening, knitting, crocheting, sewing, or decorating.
We were lucky that our mum did not have to work when we were little. As a result I, and my sisters, were encouraged to be creative from a very early age. This meant that we were given the “tools” to be able to pursue various hobbies and pastimes which we have enjoyed throughout our lives.
Before I was eight I could knit and sew, and I remember using my mum’s Singer treadle sewing machine to make clothes for my, and my sister’s, Sindy dolls. By the age of ten, my grandma had also taught me how to crochet.
So, when my mum bought her first wool shop when I was twelve, I was so excited to be able to choose some wool to start my first “grown up” project! I remember it was a mustard coloured sweater, and, if I made a good job of it, was promised more wool to go with it to make the matching skirt. Needless to say, from then on I was hooked!
When I was fourteen, mum took on a bigger shop. We now had even more choice – we were so lucky! I distinctly remember at the time, that ponchos had appeared on the scene - and I just had to have one. This time it was a crochet project and I made it in a gorgeous apple/lime green - I wore it for years, only giving it up when they went out of fashion. Surprising how things go in cycles, isn’t it - they’ve been very popular again recently.
Over the years I sewed for my children when they were little and knitted them many a cardi, jumper, hat, scarf, etc. For a period I actually designed my own knitwear and tapestry designs, selling them at various craft fairs. After that life changed a bit - my husband and I had our own business for 22 years, unfortunately not to do with yarn and fabric (but it did involve colour in a different way – it was an art shop!). Putting so much time into that meant I didn’t have much left for sewing, knitting or crocheting anymore!
So, when life moved on another big step and I came to work at Minerva, it was a kind of “coming home” for me. To see, and work with, all our beautiful yarns and fabric is a real pleasure. The yarns have moved on so much since my mum had her shops, and the choice of fabrics today is just mouthwatering!
I’ve already completed a number of my own projects, but I have now been asked if I would like to share some of my ideas and working methods with all you lovely people who enjoy our Minerva Blog. What I will be aiming to do is provide you with some food for thought over the coming months.
My “problem” has nearly always been, that whatever pattern or project I look at, I always seem to think “ Well, I like that idea, but what if I did this to it?” or “ I wonder if you did that with it, would it work?” or even being as drastic as taking an item in one medium and converting it into another, such as using the shape of a fabric garment and recreating it as a knitted or crocheted one. So, over the years, I have tended to take something as a starting point and then give it my own twist. Hopefully, by taking you step-by-step through various projects, and explaining how I have looked to alter, expand and enhance them with my own interpretations, you may be able to see how you can start to do something similar yourself!
I hope that through the coming months, I can help you to gain the confidence to look at some of your own projects in a new light. I look forward to bringing you my first post very soon,
Bye for now,
Posted in Guest Posts on Thursday the 12th February 2015 by Thalbobbins
During a recent browse of the Minerva website, I came across this gorgeous tartan jersey fabric. As soon as I saw it, I knew that my daughter Jess would love it as it features tartan, but it is not a standard tartan fabric which is in all of the shops, it is something a bit different, exactly what Jess would love!
I showed the fabric to Jess, she also loved it and immediately asked me to make her a jacket in this. (Its unfortunately since sold out, but you can find many other check patterned jersey fabrics here).
Knowing that I am a beginner having not tackled a jacket before, I thought this would be a good challenge!
Jess wanted a casual jacket so she set about looking through the pattern books and chose this ‘easy’ pattern from ‘Kwik Sew’, opting for the long sleeve version.
Having chosen the fabric, pattern and got my cotton, I was excited to start this new challenge!
Sewing for my daughter brings challenges of its own. She is a head strong 15 year old with her own personal sense of style, who will not wear anything that she does not love! Hence, many projects made but not worn (and many clothes bought and not worn) ... no pressure!
The very same night, I set about cutting out the pattern. I measured Jess and opted for the smallest size (XS) but she asked me to make it shorter. I measured where she wanted the hem of the jacket (26.5 inches) and after looking at the measurements on the pattern (31.5 inches), I knew that I needed to take 5 inches off the length. I decided to cut the pattern to the actual length (in case I wanted to make it again in the future) and then cut the jacket down to the desired length later.
The paper which this pattern is made from is much stronger than the usual tissue paper and it made it much easier to cut. I enjoyed working with this pattern for a change.
I decided to wait until the following day to carry on as I did not want to attempt this and make any mistakes due to being tired!
The following day, I laid my fabric out and got all of the pieces which I needed to cut on the fold.
The tartan of the fabric brought even more challenges! As I have mentioned before, my mum Annette is a sewing enthusiast and seen within our family as an expert! This is great and I have my very own mentor but I am also aware of her extremely high standards and I need to work towards these. Whilst this has seen us over the years examining every seam, hem and pattern matching when buying shop items that very rarely match up to mums standards, it has installed into me the need for perfection which I am trying to bring into my work ... matching a tartan fabric up on the seams whilst also ensuring that the ‘stripes’ of the fabric stay straight.
With this in mind, I checked that the ‘lines’ of the tartan matched when it was folded.
Next, I laid my pattern out, pinned the back along the fold and then put the piece for the two front next to the back; again making sure that the back and front pieces were lined up to ensure that the tartan checks were lined up to give me a chance of matching them on the seam when sewing the fronts to the back.
Once I was happy that I had lined up the pieces and the checks, I set about cutting out the two fronts and the back. I always use a good quality pair of scissors which cut through the fabric with ease, avoiding damaging the fabric in any way.
I carried on and cut out all of the pieces, following the pattern’s recommendations until I had all of the pieces cut out. I then made sure that I had snipped all of the pieces as showed on the pattern (darts) to help match the pieces up, ensuring that they are in the correct place when they are sewn together.
What I forgot to mention was that I usually have my mum on hand to help when I need it or provide any advice but my mum was out so I was all on my own, tackling a jacket!
I thought that mum would have been back by the time that I had cut the jacket out but she wasn’t. I was in two minds; should I start it ... but what if I did something wrong? Or should I wait but how long would mum be?
I decided to be brave and start it!
I set the sewing machine up and knew that I needed to use a stretch stitch to sew jersey ... but I couldn't remember which stitch setting this was!! I got some cut offs of the fabric and had a play with the two stitch settings that I was choosing between. I knew the feel of the stretch stitch as the machine seems to sew ‘forwards and backwards’ as it moves along rather than just sewing forwards as with a normal stitch. To double check that this was the correct stitch, once I had sewed the length, I gave a gentle tug on the stitching to make sure that it did not break.
I read the pattern instructions, pinned the shoulders together and sewed them. Quite proud of my work, I admired the seams as I pressed them open and then laid the first part of my jacket out (inside out of course!).
I again checked that the tartan was lined up!
Next, the pattern said to fit the sleeves into place. The thought which went through my head was ‘Eeeeek’ .... ‘Should I wait for my mum?’ I told myself to ‘get a grip’ and have a go ... I can always unpick it if I go wrong.
I have fit sleeves before but with my mum watching me and pointing me in the right direction. I remembered what mum had told me and laid my sleeves along the armhole area of the front and back. I lined up the darts which I had snipped and pinned the sleeves into place.
Nervously, I sat at the sewing machine and started to sew the sleeves in place, constantly checking that the darts were lined up. I also made sure that the pressed hem from the shoulder seam remained open and ‘flat’ to make sure that it didn’t pucker when I sewed over the seam.
Once I had sewed both in place, I sat back and admired my work! I ‘tried the jacket on’ so far to see if I could get the effect and I was sure that Jess would love it ... but as I am sure many of you, especially with teenage daughters, are aware ... you never can tell until they start to wear it – if she wears it, she approves, otherwise it is ‘lost’ in the wardrobe!!!
Now to sew the side and arm seams up ... definite ‘eeek’, this is where I needed to make sure that I had got the sides lined up neatly!
I pinned the fronts to the backs checking the line up of the tartan and then the arm sleeves – I tried to line up the tarten as much as possible but this isn’t totally possible due to the shaping of the sleeve.
Whilst sewing, I sewed the seam slowly, constantly checking that the tartan was lined up. I finished these seams, pressed them open and excitedly turned them around to the right side to check out the lines in my tartan;
Looking at the inside of the seams, I have done very well but when I turned the pieces the right way around, the lining up isn’t as successful but nevertheless, I still think that it is better that some seams in some shop bought items! I know that you can always improve and I hope that with more practice, I will get better but I am proud of my pattern matching.
And here is Jess wearing the finished jacket!
Posted in Guest Posts on Tuesday the 10th February 2015 by Thalbobbins
As the winter weather is well and truly here, I decided to knit my son a warm winter hat. After looking at the different wools, I saw a gorgeous steel grey colour in Wendy Pampas (shade 2215) mega chunky wool which has 30% wool content.
This immediately appealed as I thought it would be lovely and warm, it would look lovely with his black coat and it would grow quickly with being a mega chunky yarn! (I'm all for chunky yarns to speed things up!)
I searched through the Wendy Pampas patterns and saw a perfect pattern featuring a hat and scarf. Being 11, he will not wear a scarf but when it is freezing, he will give in and wear a hat! You could use any super-chunky hat pattern though that suits the person you are knitting for. This pattern knit up on 12mm needles, so check that on the pattern you choose. I noticed there was a free hat pattern put on the Minerva blog yesterday, so you could even use this.
I knew that this hat wouldn’t take me long and I planned to make it in one night. I sat down to watch a Christmas special of ‘Don’t tell the Bride’ and cast on. I knit the rib and then continued in stocking stitch until I had to start the shaping.
The shaping of the crown was different to any other hat I had made before; it consisted of knitting two stitches together in both the front and the back of the stitches as directed. It made it more interesting to complete but I had to make sure that I concentrated so that I didn’t knit two stitches together wrongly.
There were only seven rows of shaping before I was left with eight stitches that I had to thread the yarn through and pull tightly to shape the actual crown.
I was amazed I was still watching ‘Don’t tell the Bride’ and all that was left was the sewing up!! So far it had taken me less than 45 minutes ... not bad going!
I had chosen to use a different needle to sew it up then my usual; they are by Pony and have a larger eye which was ideal for sewing up mega chunky wool. I threaded the eye of the needle and due to the thickness of the two edges together; I sewed one loop from each edge/half the final stitch as I thought that if I used the full stitch the seam would be too bulky.
I am extremely happy with the final result. The crown looks very effective and the hat feels extremely warm!
Knit and sewn up in less than one hour, plus I have half of the ball left, I may even get another hat from the same ball.
Excellent ideas for quick and easy birthday presents! I am going to wrap this up for my son as a surprise... hence why my daughter is modelling it in the picture!
Posted in Guest Posts on Wednesday the 4th February 2015 by Thalbobbins
Firstly let me introduce myself. I'm Alison (aka 'Thalbobbins') and my connection with Minerva is that I am another daughter/sister of the owners. Annette is my mum and Vicki my sister. I often work in the Minerva Craft Centre shop on Saturdays, so for in-store Minerva customers, you may recognize me. I have been invited to blog some of my projects here on the Minerva blog for you all to see and I am really looking forward to sharing them with you :)
To describe myself as a ‘dress making novice’ is being kind!! I have grown up with my mum making everything imaginable from clothes to three piece suite covers and even my Wedding Dress, yet I have never mastered the art. I can knit and cross stitch yet sewing and dress making is the craft I have yet to master ... and master it I will!!
I have had a go at a few dresses over the past eighteen months but I have always had my mum on hand to do the ‘tricky bits’ whilst I have made her a brew! I have learnt a lot from having a go and watching my mum but I had still to make something that I could honestly say ‘I have made that’ and feel proud to wear my own creation.
I am going to a family party in two weeks where I will be meeting some of my husband’s family that I have never met so I want to wear a dress which I will feel confident in and one that I know no-one else will be wearing! My sister Vicki recently made a gorgeous wrap over dress which I love but after talking to my mum, I have realised that this is something which I can aim for but not tackle yet. Keeping this style in mind, I have chosen a Vogue pattern, V8724 which has a mock wrap around style but is a ‘Very Easy Vogue’ pattern which sounded appealing!
Before I started, I read the instructions on the paper within the pattern to ensure that I had a good understanding of what I would be doing.
I realised that the front of the skirt was cut out in one flat piece; not cut along the fold. The chest was cut in two pieces and the best thing was that the pattern supplies four different cup sizes; A, B, C and D. The back of the dress was cut in three pieces; one central back piece and two smaller pieces for each side of the back.
I cut the paper pieces out of the pattern and decided to cut the skirt part of the dress out on a bigger size than the top of the dress as I am a 8 at the top and 10 at the bottom, so by cutting it into a bigger size at the bottom I was hoping that it would fit better.
I laid the skirt pattern out onto the fabric and positioned it so that I had three of the coral flowers in a prominent position on the front of the skirt.
Once I had pinned the pattern in place, I cut it out making sure that I used good quality fabric scissors which cut the fabric smoothly and easily, ensuring that I snipped the darts so that I could line the pieces up easily when I came to sewing them together.
The pattern then explained how to create the fold at the top of the skirt area. I followed the pattern, created the fold and pinned it into place.
I then cut out the cups, making sure that I turned the paper pattern over so that I had a left cup and a right cup. The pattern had a dart the base of each cup to provide the shape. After watching my mum in the past, I knew to snip the base of the dart and place a pin at the top of the triangle shape of the dart. I then removed the paper part and left the pin, at the top of the triangle of the dart, in place.
I turned the fabric over and folded the fabric from the pin at the top of the dart, matched the two snips and pinned it to create a triangle shape.
I set the sewing machine to a stretch stitch and sewed down the pin line to create the dart and shaping on the chest; I repeated this with the other side and then ironed the darts so that the folded fabric lay towards the middle of the dress.
This created a sharp dart and the shaping of the cup. I laid the pieces out and admired my work so far! So far, all my own work!
Next, the pattern told me to work on the back of the dress. I placed all three pieces into place and pinned them together leaving 5/8 of an inch space between the pins (sewing line) and the edge which I had cut out. The edges of the pieces were not straight so I had to follow the shaping which I knew would form the shaping of the dress, ensuring a lovely fit. First of all, I pinned the top of the pieces, then the bottom. I laid the pieces out flat then pinned where I had cut the darts; lining the snips up. After that I made sure that the pieces were together and smooth and then pinned between the pins, evenly, 5/8 inch in from the edges. I repeated this for the other side then laid the back out flat to make sure that there were no ‘puckers’, the edges were lying flat and it was ready to sew.
I started to sew the pieces together, using a stretch stitch. To make sure that I sewed in a straight line, I lined the edge of my fabric up against the straight line which says ‘15’ underneath the foot on the machine. By following this line, I could make sure that I always stayed 5/8 of an inch in from the edge and the sewing line followed the ‘curve’ of the cut out fabric, ensuring that the shaping of the dress was sewn.
As I am a novice, I take my time and sew at a relatively slow speed ... well, much slower than my mum does anyway!! By taking my time, I have more control over the stitching and I am less likely to make mistakes.
I then ironed the seams open to make a professional finish ... and I have seen my mum do it many times!
Next I was ready to attach the cups to the back of the dress. I pinned the shoulders of these two pieces to the shoulders of the back, keeping the right sides of the fabric together. Again I pinned it at 5/8 of an inch down, making sure that the shoulder pieces were lined up so that they were pinned together at the sewing line.
Once I had sewed the shoulders, I pressed the seam open, like I did with the back seams.
The pattern then told me to hem the edges around the neck. I pinned a hem line around the neck and down the two front edges and I pinned this so that it was narrower than the other sewing lines, making sure that the shoulder seams were open and did not pucker at all, ensuring a neat finish.
When I sewed this edging, I followed the narrower line underneath the foot of the sewing machine, following the line which says ‘10’ rather than ’15’ which I followed on most edges.
I then ironed the edge to create a neat finish. I was very proud that the edges were nice and neat and not puckered in any way. There is nothing worse than buying an item made from jersey from the shops and seeing that the hem or edging has moved whilst being sewn and looking all puckered; it never looks neat and will not iron flat. I had managed to sew this pretty perfectly – even if I do say so myself!!
The next stage was to pin the skirt part of the front to the cups – this was the scariest part as I knew that if I messed this up, I could ruin the whole dress and I was doing well so far! I had to sew the two pieces together, making sure that the folds stayed in place, the fabric did not slip and the sewing line was in the correct place to ensure that the length of the skirt was the same at the front as the back – a lot to get right!!
I pinned the two pieces into place and then, I have to admit, I asked my mum to have a look at it to see if I had pinned it right. My mum suggested that before I pin the skirt to the cups, rather than rely on the pins holding the folds into place, I sewed them down using a normal straight stitch; this way, the folds would not fall out and there would be less pins in place which would be less bulky when sewing the seam. I followed my mum’s expert advice, sewed the folds down and then re-pinned the seam. My mum checked it and said that it was fine to sew.
Very carefully, I sewed this seam, after switching back to a stretch stitch, following the ‘15’ line under the foot of the sewing machine to ensure that I followed a straight line. When I finished this seam, I was scared to look in case I had gone wrong but luckily, it was fine – phew!
Next, I had to iron the inside of the seam to make the fold lie ‘upwards’. Where the fabric was quite bulky, I trimmed some of the excess fabric away and re-ironed it and the seam lay flatter.
The dress was all in one piece now; the back was attached to the cups by the shoulder seams and the skirt was sewn onto the cups. Now I had to sew the side seams up.
As I have grown up with a dress making perfectionist, I was fully aware that the dress needed to be tried on now to double check the fit and see where the side seams should be sewn. I could have just sewn the sides up at 5/8 of an inch but by doing this, I would have run the risk of the dress not fitting me; either being too big or too small!
I tried the dress on inside out and asked my mum for her help in fitting it on me. Whilst I was wearing it (and admiring my work so far), my mum pinned the side seams to check the fit. Luckily, it was a perfect fit, pinning the seams at 5/8 of an inch in from the edge. I unpinned one side, took the dress off and re-pinned it at 5/8 of an inch.
I sewed the side seams and then tried it on again to check the length. The pattern comes in two lengths and I had decided to make the shorter version and wanted the hem to lie on my knee. The dress came a few inches below the knee so I knew that it needed to be shortened.
Again, I asked my mum to help and mum virtually led on the floor whilst I turned around very slowly to check that the bottom of the dress was level all the way around (I have spent many an hour doing this over the years!). My mum was happy that the level was straight so she placed a pin in place which would be my sewing line.
I followed this sewing line and pinned it across then cut the excess fabric off, making sure that I kept a straight line, leaving enough fabric for my hem.
I pinned the hem in place using 5/8 of an inch depth and then sewed all around the hem following the ‘15’ line under the foot of the machine. Again, this seam was a scary seam as I knew that if I messed it up, the hem of my dress would be puckered and uneven which would look a total mess and ruin all of my good work. Luckily, I did well; I pressed it to create a sharp hem and admired my work!
Finally, all that was left to do was to sew a neat seam around the arm holes and my dress would be finished! I pinned a narrow hem, like that around my neck line. This was quite tricky and fiddly as the armhole space is quite a small area. I was quite scared doing this but knew that once I had done it, I had mastered my first dress all on my own! I took my time, sewed it along the ‘10’ line and then pressed the seam flat, again very pleased that I did not have any puckers in the seam.
I can honestly say that I am over the moon with my dress! I have made it all myself with the comfort from knowing that my mum was in the next room if I needed her!
My next project will be a dress for my 15 year old daughter, also for this party. I have chosen another easy pattern whilst I am building my skills and confidence but I will face the challenge of making an outfit for someone else and fitting the dress on a ‘model’.
Roll on next Sunday when I can continue to master this new skill and enjoy my new hobby!!
See you next time,