Posted in Guest Posts on Wednesday the 15th February 2017 by Vicki Ormerod
We have a special blog post to share with you today - a Q&A with the lovely Harriet from Hobbling Handmades. We chat to Harriet about all things sewing and crafting and get a little glimpse into the world of the lady who writes this fantastic blog! Il now pass over to Harriet...
Can you tell us a little bit about you and your blog?
Hello! I'm Harriet, aged 17, and my blog and YouTube channel are both called Hobbling Handmades. I have a heart condition and a mobility disorder which means that a lot of the time I'm sitting in my wheelchair; hence the name! My blog documents my sewing and knitting trials and tribulations, and once a month (though usually more) I write a post about my disabilities.
What made you decide to start your blog about crafting?
I decided to start my blog late last year so that I could document my makes as I went along, and so that I can look back every now and then to see what progress I have made – though a lot of the time I only read the posts about the things that went wrong so that I can have a good laugh. After a couple of weeks, I started writing about my life as a less-than-healthy Harriet and found that these were getting read and shared a lot by my friends on Facebook – cripples and non-cripples alike. So, I've kept doing the odd post about that to inspire others with illness and to help the people around me understand what my life is like on a day-to-day basis.
When did you start sewing and what inspired you to start? What was your first make?
I started to knit before I started to sew, and to be honest I learnt by a happy coincidence. (But how can you learn by accident? I hear you say) I happened to be sitting in the same room as when my cousin asked my nana if she could teach her how to knit. And, because my book wasn't very exciting at that point, I asked if I could learn too. My first object off the needles was, as with most new knitters, a scarf. It wasn't very good at all if I'm honest, but I was very proud of it nonetheless. That was two years ago, and I've loved to knit ever since. I've found it to be a welcome distraction from my pain, and I became more and more in love with it. I started watching knitting vloggers on YouTube and, when I saw that most of them did sewing as well, I decided to give that a go. I got a pattern for a dress and went off to the shop to get some fabric. I didn't have a sewing machine and neither did anyone else in my family, so I made the whole thing by hand! It took absolutely ages, but I'm so proud of it, and, needless to say, got my first sewing machine soon after.
What do you love most about crafting?
There are so many things that I love about crafting! When I was first diagnosed, I had to give up most of my hobbies because I wasn't able to do them any more (believe it or not, I used to be quite sporty). Finishing a make gives me back the sense of achievement that I lost after having to stop running and horse riding, and at the end I have an item of clothing with a story behind it, and that is completely and utterly unique to me (thing I love number two). I also adore the sewing and knitting community itself. I've never felt so supported or inspired before, and everyone is so lovely!
What is your favourite product on the Minerva Crafts website and what would you make with it?
I'm not sure if I'm really allowed to do this, but I'm going to be sneaky and have the products that I'd use for a whole garment...
(This one doesn't really count, so I'm going to include it as well – the Hemline 40 spool thread organiser!)
The Sewing Pattern that I would use:
The Fabric that I would use – I'd use this Daisy Puff Pink Gingham Fabric in pale blue, and a little bit of white fabric for the collar:
The Knitting Pattern that I would use – I love a good Christmas jumper!
I'd stick to the traditional Christmas pudding colours for the colourwork, but I'd use this lovely Soft Knitting Yarn in pale blue for the rest of the jumper:
How many projects do you have on the go at once?
I try to only have one sewing project and one knitting project on the go at once, but I usually get too excited and have multiple of each craft! I have been good recently with sewing, but I have quite I high pile of quick fixes I need to do with my garments – zip replacements, hemming and things like that. Oops! With knitting though, I'm not even sure how many I have on the go. I think about four?
What's your favourite thing that you've ever made?
I think my proudest make is definitely the shirt I made for my dad at Christmas. It was the first time I'd ever used a Vogue pattern, or made anything for a man – so I definitely took my time! I was so pleased with the end result though, the inside was all French seams, and I'd even done some hand stitching to make extra sure that it would be perfect!
Here's the link to my post in case anybody wants to read more about it.
And the little bee and the little dinosaur I thought I'd include because they're a couple of the favourite things that I've crocheted (I feel bad because I haven't included any photos of the knitted things I've made!)
Do you watch TV/ listen to music as you craft?
I find that I'm not very good at watching TV as I sew, because I end up not looking at what's on. Instead, I opt for something that I can listen to with headphones (to avoid it being drowned out by the noise of my sewing machine) and I've recently been really enjoying podcasts and audiobooks. I'm working through all of the Invisibilia podcasts, (which I really recommend if you like science or documentaries in general) and replaying the Hamlet audiobook so that the quotes start sticking in my head ready for my exams! When I'm knitting, though, I'm a big fan of the TV and YouTube – mostly Mad Men, Modern Family or vlogs from my favourite sewing and knitting YouTubers.
Do you follow other blogs? If so who?
Goodness, I follow so many blogs! I'll try to list my top five – so, in no particular order…
Gabberdashery – Gabby Young, on YouTube and her website
Sewn – Rosabella, on YouTube and Blogger
Sew Over It – Lisa Comfort, on YouTube (And more recently, on her own channel and website!)
CocoWawa Crafts – Ana, on YouTube
Rosie Peña – Rosie, on YouTube and her website
I follow loads more, but I think these are the ladies that I watch the most!
What/who do you go to for inspiration before you start crafting?
As many of the people reading this probably are, I'm a Pinterest addict. I have so many boards that I don't think I could ever be lost for inspiration! I just scroll on through and get ideas for future makes, and save the ones that I really like. If I get a new pattern (especially if its from an indie company – they usually have their own boards for each pattern). I type in the name, and loads of finished makes come up to give some inspiration. Another way that I like to find inspiration (and do some recycling) is going through old magazines. I cut out all of the things that I like, and stick them in a little notebook to give me ideas for future makes.
Do you have any sewing disasters?
I've definitely had a few! I think my biggest failure though was when I was making my first shirt. It had a notched collar… and I cut it in half! Needless to say I did not finish that one!
Thanks so much for that Harriet! And thank you all for reading. Head over to Harriets blog if you would like to read more and see what Harriet has been crafting since we spoke :)
Posted in Guest Posts on Thursday the 2nd February 2017 by Vicki Ormerod
Hello everyone, my name is Wendy and I'm delighted to be here as a guest blogger on the Minerva Crafts Blog. When I am not making things and blogging about them on my own blog over at www.wendystitch.com, I am a secondary school textiles teacher in East London.
As part of my job I have taught hundreds of teenagers how to make clothes - literally hundreds of prom dresses! Today I am going to share with you the first of two tutorials on how to achieve a great fit on one of my favourite dress styles - the princess seam bodice. It is one that my students really struggle with, but it just takes a bit of practise.
This week I am going to focus on the bust adjustment and tissue fitting of the bodice. In part two I will show you how to make and adjust your toile, before sewing up the actual dress.
The skirt part of a dress is pretty easy to fit, it is often just a matter of adjusting the side seams. But a dress bodice can be harder to get right. Particularly the close fitting lines of a beautiful princess seam bodice.
The pattern I am going to be using for this tutorial is New Look Pattern 6341 and I am going to be making view A. If you don't fancy this one then there are lots of other princess seam patterns available and they all follow the same fitting procedure.
Before we properly get started I think it is important for me to point out that there are loads of books you can read on fitting methods. I’ve read dozens of them and have taken classes from experts – including the wonderful Gretchen Hirsch - on dress fitting. Not every technique is going to work for everyone and some are more sophisticated than others – I am going to show you some simple pattern tweaks that work for me.
Got your pattern and supplies ready? OK then, let's begin!
The first thing you are going to have to do is figure out which size to trace off. We are concentrating on the bodice so we are going to need your bust measurements and waist measurement. My bust is 36 inches and my waist is 28 inches, which puts me at a size 14 for this pattern. (If you are between sizes it is best to size up and make the adjustments later.)
Once you have found your size you need to carefully trace off the bodice front, bodice back, side back bodice and side front bodice pieces onto some dressmakers tissue paper, ready to do a tissue fit. (You can of course do a tissue fit without tracing the pattern but tracing it off is a good habit to get into, plus it means if you change sizes you can use the pattern again!)
Once you have traced off your pieces the next thing I always like to do is to a full bust adjustment. It is particularly important that the bust fits you right on a princess seam bodice otherwise it will really ruin the line of the dress.
If you are larger than a C cup then I would recommend doing this first. I use a simple method of slashing and spreading the pattern to add in some extra room for the bust. Not sure how much you need to add? Well, all patterns are different but a general rule of thumb is to add one inch for each cup size over a C cup. So if you are a D cup add one inch, an DD add two inches and so on.
To adjust the bust:
On the bodice side front piece, draw a horizontal line from the side seam notch to the curved side seam and, with scissors, slash almost to the seam line. Spread this slash the amount you need to increase, hinging at the seam line. Then draw a corresponding line across the front bodice piece and slash this one too. Spread the slash as much as you need.
Add some tissue scraps behind the slashed pattern pieces and use some sticky tape to hold it all in place.
If you have a smaller bust, the adjustment follows the same principle but you need to overlap the slashed pieces rather than spread them.
Happy with the bust adjustment? The next step is to mark off the 1.5cm seam allowance on all the seams.
Tip- a standard measuring tape is 1.5cm wide. You can this to mark off your seam allowance.
Next we are going to cut out the tissue pieces and pin together along the seam allowance to create half of a bodice.
It can be quite tricky to pin the curved princess seams together but there are a few things you can do to make it easier - cut notches in the tissue paper so it bends around that curve easer, use a lot of pins and, the crucial bit, take your time.
Try on your tissue bodice in front of a mirror and have a look at how it fits. And I mean properly try it on – don’t just put it on your dress form. Straight away you should be able to tell if the bodice is too big or too small, too long or too short for you. Use pins and a pencil to mark the necessary changes on your bodice.
I also like to check the fit of the shoulders at this stage. Ideally you want the shoulder seam allowance to sit right on the edge of your shoulders. If your shoulder pieces are too wide or too narrow, mark off where you want the seam to be. Also check the arm-hole, it should be about 2.5cm below your arm pit. Alter your seam if necessary.
Once you have figured out those basic changes and made the adjustments on your paper pattern - through slashing, pinching or adding extra bits of tissue paper - it is time to move on to Part Two.
I hope you have enjoyed the first part of this tutorial, come back for part two, next week, when I will be showing you how to perfect the fit of your toile.
Posted in Guest Posts on Thursday the 19th January 2017 by Vicki Ormerod
Its Alex here from Alex's Adventures in Fabric and I am super excited to be writing a guest post here on the Minerva Crafts Blog!
Like most people, I usually start January desperate to get back in the gym after all that festive feasting! What better motivation to get back than brand new, me-made gym kit? I decided to make the Sewaholic Dunbar Top Pattern. This is a sports vest with a built-in sports bra. I loved the idea of a built-in sports bra - perfect for pulling on quickly for an early morning gym session, plus I've never sewn any kind of lingerie before and I'm always up for a new sewing challenge!
I chose some lovely, medium weight Cotton Jersey Fabric in turquoisejade for the main part of the body and anthracite grey for the contrast detail. I actually prefer gym clothes in cotton for comfort so these were perfect.
I started the project on one of those strange 'limbo' days between Christmas and New Year. Not only is sewing the perfect activity for those aimless days, it is still legitimately fine to fuel the creative process with seasonal treats (hence the chocolate coins!):
There were a lot of pattern pieces to cut in three different fabrics (this project uses Power Net for the bra in addition to the main and contrast fabrics). Although I have an Overlocker, I decided to make the majority of this project on my normal sewing machine, to give more control, especially around some of the trickier details such as the sweetheart contrast detail on the front:
I really took my time matching the pieces to make this detail and was generally pleased with how it turned out, although the point isn't exactly in the middle of the neckline, which is frustrating.
The bra was slightly confusing to make, and I had to re-read the instructions several times before they sunk in. I've never seen with power net before and found it a bit tricky. I felt like I was constructing the bra and not really getting anywhere for ages. In the end, it came together pretty well with some steady stitching and a lot of pins:
When it came to attaching the bra to the main body, I misread the instructions again and ended up sewing round all exposed areas of neckline, armhole openings and shoulders before realising I couldn't turn it through.
Not for the first time during this project, I became closely reacquainted with my seam ripper...
When attaching the binding to the neckline and armholes, I found that the length given in the instructions wasn't enough and I had to make more. The finish on the binding wasn't brilliant at first, but I got better with practice and would definitely be more confident using this method again for stretch fabrics in future. Finishing the rest of the project was quite straightforward, attaching elastic for the bottom of the bra and hemming the main vest. I decided to use Foam Bra Cups for the bra, for extra support and also a bit of padding. I was nervous that these would move around while I was working out, so I stitched them in place by hand.
Although my first attempt at the Dunbar top is far from perfect, I really enjoyed making this pattern. Once I got my head around the instructions and some of the new techniques, I enjoyed the challenge:
I wore it to the gym for the first time on Saturday morning for the ultimate test. It was fantastically comfortable - much more so than any of my existing sports tops worn with a separate sports bra. The only adjustment I need to make is to change the elastic at the bottom of the bra for wider elastic to give some more support. The patterns calls for wider elastic than I used, I was just trying to use up odds and ends from my stash. I'll definitely be making this again. Once of the beauties of this pattern is that it uses a relatively small amount of each type of fabric so it's a great stash buster. Plus, it's easier to go to the gym when you have new clothes to wear!
Thanks for reading,
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!