Wednesday, 16 July 2014


The Agatha was my second sweater and my first Andi Satterland pattern. Her patterns were a major factor for me in deciding to take up knitting. I used to watch from the sidelines as lovely sweaters were being made while resigning myself to a future of lame ready to wear. Now I can join in the cropped cardi and floaty dress combo whenever I want. I'm so easily pleased!

Anywhere here are some photos. It was super hot today so the cardigan was off as soon as the photos were taken.  

The details:

Pattern: Agatha by Andi Satterland.

Yarn: Cascade 220, sunflower (2415 colourway).

Needles: 4.5 mm for the body, 4 mm for the cuffs and button bands.

Cast on: 5 April 2014.

Finished: 31 May 2014.

I love the construction of this sweater. After knitting seamless sweaters I am not sure I would want to knit flat and seam (or why anyone would).

I wouldn't say the sweater was hard but you do need to keep your wits about you. I had read that people had to rip back because they lost track of their rows on the lace panels. My method of knitting from a pattern so far has been to cut and paste the text from the PDF pattern into a Word document and then to write out all the rows. So for example if the pattern says, repeat the previous 2 rows 8 times, I would write them out that number of times (sometimes with increases or whatever). This takes extra time but I don't mind because it means as soon as I complete a row I write “done” next to it on my document. For the Agatha this meant writing out all the lace panel rows I needed in a particular row into each row on my Word document. There was no flipping back and forth to separate charts for me. I wanted everything I needed for the row in one place. I wasn't about to rely on a post-it note to keep my place in the charts, particularly since there were 7 lace charts to follow when knitting the joined body.

I was surprised the pattern didn't call for stitch markers at each lace panel. I had stitch markers around all my lace panels. I just use scraps of yarn tied into small circles for my place markers. I can't stand trying to knit with those plastic stitch markers.

The Agatha is mainly straightforward between the lace panels, with relatively mindless ribbing and the odd increase / decrease here and there. When I reached the stitch markers I would pay more attention to following the lace pattern. I would also regularly count the stitches between my lace panel markers. Sometimes the counts were off, usually because I was missing a yarn over. This is easy to add in when I next come to it by just lifting the yarn between the stitches. I soon learned to “read” the lace stitches which was really helpful when trying to see where I had gone wrong in dropping a stitch. For example the ssk's and k2 and k3 tog's are easy to recognise. It's important to learn how to do this as you cannot keep undoing your work every time you miss a stitch. You at least have to try and work it out and rip out only if all else fails and you can't bear to continue knowing there's an error there. As I said, with me it was mostly leaving off the yarnovers so no major problems fixing.

The lovely thing about knitting a popular pattern is reading the notes of those who have made the pattern. Here are some of the tips I used.

From Johanna at Making It Well. I followed her link for a stretchy sewn bind off. She linked to this video. I also found this 2007 blog tutorial which seems to be the same. I now use this bind off all the time. I follow the blog tutorial now rather than watching the video.

From Gail at Today's Agenda there are lots of useful tips on her Miette knit along posts. I used her tips for the button bands. Firstly I knit them with a smaller needle. I also twisted the first row of stitches after the pick up row (ie by knitting and purling the picked up stitches through the back loop). Lastly I picked up at the rate of 2 stitches for every 3 without worrying about how many the pattern said. Funnily enough I ended up with the same amount as required by the pattern.

I followed Lladybird's lead and re-inforced both button bands. When I did my Agatha Lladybird had not yet written up her tutorial for doing this so I kind of winged it. I couldn't find any suitable ribbon so I used sew in interfacing the size of my button bands, less about an eight of an inch all the way around so it wouldn't peek onto the right side. (You can also use iron-on interfacing). I then used a lining fabric in my stash and cut it 1 cm bigger than my interfacing strip all around. I then ironed over the 1 cm hem on all sides and then stitched the strip to the button side of my button band with tiny stitches. With my button hole side I pinned the interfacing strip to my button band and then marked where I needed to sew the buttonholes. I then machined button holes on the interfaced strip. If there is one tip I can give here, it is to make the machine buttonhole slightly bigger that the buttonhole on your cardigan. This is because when I came to attaching the strip to my cardigan and matching up, it wasn't completely accurate on some and I had to cut into the bar tack of the button hole to enable my button to fit in. I also started to hand stitch my machined buttonholes to my cardigan buttonholes but this didn't work out so I left them loose. I noticed that Lladybird's tutorial also leaves them loose.

One thing I changed in the pattern was the buttonholes. The pattern calls for eyelet buttonholes. I was concerned they wouldn't be very strong. After a lot of reading up and watching tutorials I settled on using the one-row horizontal buttonhole using this tutorial on how to do a variety of buttonholes. I also followed this You Tube tutorial which has a good tip for using the purl cable cast on instead of the knit cable cast on for this type of buttonhole.

Gail from Today's Agenda also linked to this brilliant buttonhole calculator which I used to calculate the spacing in my buttonholes.

I made the button band wider. I did about 9 rows instead of 5. I also did 9 buttons instead of 7.

I did the medium size which has an inch of positive ease in the bust. The cardigan is slightly more slouchy than intended but I'm not too worried about that. I will embrace the Andi Satterland negative ease a bit more in a future project. Inexplicably the pattern came out longer than the schemeatic even though my gauge was correct and I followed the pattern.

If I were to make the pattern again with negative ease I would have to make the body smaller and use the same size sleeves / armholes. The sleeves and armholes are nice and snug on the medium so would be too small if I were to knit the small. I will have to learn to modify patterns at some point.

I think that is about all I can say. There is the odd error here and there in the pattern. Some of them are noted in the Ravelry comments on the pattern. Also look at the forum posts on the pattern on Ravelry (a couple of which were started by me when I became stuck on the sleeves, which turned out to be an error in the pattern).

Andi is brilliant in replying to comments. I messaged her a few times on Ravelry. Mostly she replied instantly and I never had to wait more than a day for a reply.

I'm wearing the Agatha with my Rooibos dress which goes really well with it.  It's funny that I'm having to think really carefully about future hand sewn clothes to ensure they will also go with my hand knits.  I don't have a lot to wear with my Agatha at the moment.  I haven't worn leggings for ages but I've discovered the Agatha looks good with leggings and a floaty ready to wear tunic that I have. 

I have just finished the Myrna. It is blocking at the moment and I want to re-inforce the button bands again so it may be another couple of weeks until that is finished.

Still no sewing. I tried to join in the Untangling Knots Outfit Along but I had terrible problems with my muslins. I tried the Anna dress and the Ava dress and for both the bodices came out too short. I have therefore left sewing for a bit and will remember to measure before I cut a muslin in future! The Outfit Along has turned into the Myrna Along for me but never mind.

Happy sewing and knitting.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

January Cropped Sweater

After finishing my first knitting project following a pattern surely my goal of hand knitted sweater and cardi goodness was a step nearer? I'm pleased to say that it was. I have now even conquered the giddy heights of an Andi Satterland pattern but for now I give you my first hand knitted sweater. Here are the pictures taken today.

I used the January Cropped Sweater pattern from Tara Miller. It's a free pattern and I made the medium. I used the recommended yarn, King Cole Magnum lightweight chunky, 75% acrylic, 25% wool.

I learned so much making this sweater. The pattern unfortunately had loads of errors (with stitch counts being wrong and the like) so I had to re-write the numbers on most of it.

The pattern recommends 8 mm needles for the neckline and body. I used 6.5 mm needles for the neckline (as well as for all the ribbing as the pattern recommends). It's a top down sweater so you start with the neckline. My rookie errors are laughable now. I tried to cast on and knit the neckline on a 21 inch circular needle. Not surprisingly I didn't get very far. After a lot of swearing and frustration I posted a question on Ravelry. The only solution I could think of was buying double pointed needles.

I got a few responses from Ravelry members, such as knitting the neckline flat and seaming it later. A few posts in one lady nonchalantly suggested I look at the travelling loop or magic loop methods. Magic what? Well that lovely lady saved my sanity. A couple of You Tube videos later my project was saved! I am also a magic loop convert and have used the method over double pointed needles for sleeves ever since.

This sweater knitted up really fast, despite all the errors in the pattern and thinking time that went with it. I cast on on 8 March 2014 and it was finished and blocked by 29 March 2014.

I love the sweater and despite the problems with the pattern I think it was a good pattern for a beginner. The bias detail on the sleeves made the project interesting. The bind off for the body recommended Jenny's surprisingly stretch bind off. I love the method. As the name suggests, it really is stretchy, perfect for a sweater. I liked it so much that I used it for the sleeves. I don't think it was a great idea for the sleeves. My wrists are small, the sleeves are a tad big, so I didn't really need a stretchy bind off. It has added an interesting fluted detail to the sleeves. If I were to make the sweater again I would make the arms narrower and use a normal bind off.

My knitting addiction continues. I have just finished a cardigan and I am currently knitting the Myrna from Andi Satterland. The only downside is that my sewing is suffering. I can only sew at the weekends and it has been hard tearing myself away from the knitting.

I hope I can get photos of my second sweater soon.

See you soon.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Broad Street Mittens

Long breaks between blogs is getting to be the norm around here. I'm still living in London during the week and back in Norfolk at the weekends. This means that I can't sew during the week.

Instead of buying patterns during the week and dreaming up what to sew (which I was doing a lot of) I decided to use my time more productively. I finally got around to learning to knit properly. By that I mean I no longer look at written pattern and say:

  1. “What the ….??” after the first few rows of ribbing;
  2. “Why does knitting have to be so damn complicated”.
  3. “Why can't they write the patterns in plain English rather than in stupid codes”
With a lot of help from the internet, my knitting book and Ravelry I now understand the “codes”. Sorry for calling your codes stupid knitting designers. I now know that they're not at all stupid. Once you have taken the time to understand them they are stupidly simple!

My first project reading a pattern was the Broad Street mittens by Janis Cortese. This is a free pattern from and also appears on Ravelry. (I tell a lie – my first knitting project reading a pattern was at aged 11 when clever me somehow managed to knit dolls with hair and everything).

There are a few errors in the pattern and I had a lot of help reading this forum post and this Ravelry finished project post.

I also watched on You Tube, in full, a series of videos about knitting gloves in the round. Although the pattern I used was slightly different, I learned from the video how to knit in the round and how to knit the fingers. I also learned how to pick up the stitches when knitting the fingers, including adding one stitch to join with the next stitch when knitting in the round. One great thing about knitting stocking stitch in the round is that it eliminates the need for purl rows as you are always facing a knit row.

In hindsight it was a challenging pattern to start off with. I would say that if you can get past this pattern you are totally ready to knit a sweater. It's not a great leap to turn a glove upside down and understand how a top-down sweater is knitted. The wrist of the glove is similar to the neck and the thumb of the glove is similar to how a sleeve is knitted. Knitting a sweater is exactly what I'm working on now. I'm nearing the end of the second sleeve and I can't wait to show you.

Anyway here are some pictures of my gloves:

Here are the details.


2 x 50g balls of Patons Madella, 83% acrylic, 17% wool. (From my stash)

Changes to the pattern / Clarification of pattern instructions / Corrections to the pattern

Swatch / Needle size

I did a swatch with the recommended needle size but the fabric produced came out way to big (it's supposed to be 28 stitches to 4 inches in stocking stitch. I reduced my needles to a 2.75 mm needles, made another swatch and this came out fine.

The pattern didn't tell you to use a smaller needle for the cuff and the ribbing on the mitten cap. On the second glove I used a smaller needle for these sections. I preferred the look of the tighter cuff and ribbing on the second glove.

Thumb Increases

The thumb increase on the Broadstreet mitten is unusual in that the increases only happen on one side of the thumb. This means there is no “increase line” showing at the front of the glove. The “increase line” is on the palm side of the glove, supposedly where it will be seen less.

The pattern uses four double pointed needles, two for the palm and two for the back of the hand. From reading Ravelry and other notes about the pattern there was some confusion about the thumb gusset increase.

For the thumb increase (on the left hand) you need to purl in the same place on the second needle and then do your make one increases after that on the second needle until you have 12 stitches. Therefore on the second needle on every other row:

K 13, purl 1, make 1 (twisted), knit to the end of the row (end of the row being the end of the 4th needle where the tail end is.

Then on the normal (non-increased) row in between the increase rows it is just knit all the way round the row to the tail end except on the second needle it is:

K13, purl 1, knit to end of needle.

I'm not sure I was doing the twisted make 1 correctly. The You tube video I found just seemed to be the normal make 1, which I used.

Cast on after separating thumb

After finishing the thumb increases you had to knit around to the end of the second needle (ie at stitch 13 and just before the 14 stitches thumb stitches put on a holder) and then cast on 11 stitches. I did this by turning my work the wrong side (so the purl stitches facing me) and adding the using the cable cast on method.

Pinky finger

After knitting up to where the pinky finger starts, the pattern instructions were a bit sparse. Luckily I had already watched the glove knitting videos linked above so I knew what to do. I wrote out the following instructions to fill in the gaps in the pattern instructions at this point:

  1. After putting the 3 middle finger stitches on a holder the pattern tells you to cast on one stitch on the ring finger side. However the tail end side of the work where you are starting from is on the other side, so you have to knit up to this point and then cast on one stitch. I used the cable cast on again.

  1. The pattern didn't tell you to knit two stitches together from the two sections like it did for the thumb cast on stitches. I therefore cast on an extra stitch (so two cast on stitches instead of one) and knit the extra stitch together with the first stitch from the back of the hand pinky.
  2. The pattern didn't tell you to transfer the pinky stitches onto more than one double pointed needle. I found I couldn't knit with just two double pointed needle so I transferred my stitches onto 4 double pointed needles. (With so many needles I felt a bit like Edward Scissorhands at this point).

Middle and ring finger

Instead of picking up 2 stitches from the base of the ring finger (as in the pattern) I picked up 5. I reduced the 5 to 3 on the next round and then the 3 to 2 on the following round. This worked because there are no holes between the fingers. I also cast on an extra stitch on the opposite end of the 2 picked up stitches and then knit this with the first stitch on the needle holding the back of hand stitches. Again this prevents a hole appearing in your work.


The pattern said to pick up 12 stitches along the cast on edge (see “Cast on after separating thumb” above). This didn't seem enough to me. As I was concerned there would be gaps I picked up a stitch every couple of stitches and ended up picking up 17. I then knit one round and during this round I reduced the 17 picked up stitches to 12 and the followed the pattern instructions from there.

Mitten shell

I read on Ravelry that people had difficulty with the star decreases on the middle shell. There is a mistake in the pattern and there should be two decreases per needle instead of one.

I wrote out what I needed to knit and decrease on each of the 4 needles and the corrected decrease instructions are as follows:

Starting with 56 stitches in all, on each needle:

Decrease row 1:
k5, k2tog. Repeat. (48 stitches) (12 stitches per needle)
Rows 2 to 6:
K 5 rounds even.
Decrease row 7:
K4, k2tog on each needle. Repeat. (40 stitches) (10 stitches per needle)
Rows 8 to 11:
K 4 rounds even.
Decrease row 12:
K3, k2tog on each needle. Repeat. (32 stitches) (8 stitches per needle)
Rows 13 to 15:
K 3 rounds even.
Decrease row 16:
K2, k2tog on each needle. Repeat. (24 stitches) (6 stitches per needle)
Rows 17 to 18:
K 2 rounds even.
Decrease row 19: K1, k2tog on each needle. Repeat. (16 stitches) (4 stitches per needle)
Row 20:
K 1 round even.
Decrease row 21:
K2tog on each needle. Repeat. (8 stitches) (2 stitches per needle)
Row 21A: K 1 round even (my addition)
Row 22: K2tog x 4 (4 stitches)
Row 23: K 2 inches of I-cord on these 4 stitches.

To start the mitten cap, after knitting the ribbing for the mitten cap, you had to pick up 30 stitches across the mitten. The only way I could see to do this was to pick up the second leg of each of the 30 knuckle stitches onto two needles.

Right hand glove instructions

As mentioned above there are no instructions for the right hand. The only differences between the left and the right hand are the thumb increases and thumb decreases.

My notes for the right hand thumb increases are set out below.

For the thumb increase you need to purl in the same place on the third needle and then do your make one increases before that on the third needle until you have 12. Therefore on the third needle on every other row:

Work out where the increases will be on needle 3 by either: noting where you need to purl by looking to see which stitch is purled on the previous row; or counting back from the end of needle 3 the stitches that will be the K 13, purl 1. K up to just before where the purl 1 will be, M1 (twisted), purl, knit to the end of the row (end of the row being the end of the 4th needle where the tail end is).

Then on the normal (non-increased) row in between the increase rows (as above) it is just knit all the way round the row to the tail end except on the third needle it is:

Work out where the purl will be by either: noting where you need to purl by looking to see which stitch is purled on the previous row; or counting back from the end of needle 3 the stitches that will be the K13, purl 1. K up to where your purl needs to go, purl, K to the end of the row.

My notes for the right hand thumb decreases are set out below.

After finishing the increases you have to knit around to the end of needle 2 (ie K 15) and then cast on 11 stitches onto needle 2. At the start of the third needle, after the 14 stitches are put on a holder, there should be 13 stitches left. With the 11th added stitch on needle 2 you join it with the first stitch on the third needle to close up the thumb hole.

Loose bind off for the fingers

When the pattern said “bind off loosely” for the fingers, I thought that meant just don't pull it too tight. I used the ordinary bind off for the first glove. After searching the term on You Tube I found that it is a different method of bind off using purl stitch and wrapping the yarn around the needle clockwise instead of anti-clockwise. Unsurprisingly my bind off has come out much better on the second glove.


The mitten shell has a length of i-cord at the tip for the button hole. By the time I came to my second glove I had read a tip about knitting the i-cord with a smaller needle to make it tighter. I did this and although it was difficult to knit the first few rows it has definitely came out tighter. I preferred the tighter look on the i-cord for the second glove.

I blocked my gloves and then they were ready to wear. It took me a while to get around to sewing the button on. This step was worthwhile as the mitten shells flap around when they are worn off the hand. How cute is the mitten shell? When worn off the hand they're like cute little beanies!

Overall I am really pleased with my mittens and I have worn them a lot at the weekend. They're really cosy and warm!

Now at the weekends I have to force myself to do some sewing! Hope to be back soon with my finished sweater and an easy sewing project I've finished.

Happy sewing (and knitting)!

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 Hits and Misses

I debated about whether to do an end of year review. I haven't made enough to do a list of 5 hits and misses. I've logged eight completed items on the blog this year. I also made two other items but I won't include them as they won't meaning anything if I haven't posted about them.

I really like Gillian's idea with the top 5 lists. We can use this cute little button and change the rules to suit ourselves.

Instead of doing top 5 lists I will talk about the “hits and misses” with what I've made this year. What I like, what I love, what I don't like and what hasn't worked. I enjoyed putting this together and hopefully it will help me to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

If you want to read more about any of the items please follow the links from the Finished Projects tab at the top.

Burda slip dress

The good.

  • The colour. The white is neutral and versatile.
  • The fabric. It's soft and lovely to touch.
  • The fit. I was surprised at how well this fit with little alteration. With my odd shape I was expecting a lingerie item to take longer.
  • The finish.  The “turned-under” vintage seam finish takes a bit more effort but is totally worth it.

The not so good?

  • The straps. Some form of elasticated strap would be good. When I sit down I can feel them digging in my shoulders.
  • General thoughts. I've worn my first Darling Ranges dress loads since this was completed. I haven't worn it with anything else though.  This is probably because most of my garments are already lined but it's nice to know I have a slip if I need one.

Denim Wiksten Skirt

The good:

  • The colour and fabric. Denim. No further explanation necessary. I need to make more denim skirts. I have 3 at the moment. Maybe a Beignet or a Ginger?
  • The fit. This is good but I've always found skirts easier to fit. A bit of adjusting at the side seams is all that is usually needed.
  • The vintage seam finish. See above.
  • My additions: pockets, belt loops and longer ties. They make a superior skirt in my opinion. I'm usually alright with leaving pockets off dresses but somehow skirts need pockets in my humbles.
Misses? None that I can think of.

  • General thoughts.  Next to my Royal Blue Minoru jacket this has to be one of this year's most worn garments. I'm wearing it now with my stripy Rendrew top. I added a lining to the skirt which was the basis of my first tutorial. I've just noticed the tutorial now appears as a “popular post” in the side bar. Nice to see a 2013 post there among the mainly 2011 posts.  My side bar is a constant reminder of my Peter Pan collar phase.

Light Blue Wiksten Skirt

  • Hits and misses? Very much the same as the Denim version.
  • General thoughts.  I haven't worn this skirt as much as the denim one. This is mainly because I haven't found anything to wear it with other than the blue jumper that I wore on the photo shoot. I did wear my White Banksia with it a couple of times. As an interlude I would now downgrade my Banksias to misses. They were hits in my 2012 list. The slightest bit of bending over means a whole lot of flashing. Not what you want to worry about when wearing a garment. Purely for that reason I would now consider them fails. Such a pity because I love the tops and so want to wear them in real life.

Royal Blue Minoru Jacket

The Good.

  • My changes: the length, the fully lined patch pockets, the interlining and inferfacing of the whole jacket for warmth and the storm flaps.   
  • This jacket gets worn every weekend so it must be a hit. I wore this coat to work today as my usual one was at the dry cleaners. One of my lovely colleagues saw it hanging up and asked if I got a new coat for Christmas! She wasn't expecting me to say I'd made it! (Ha ha – that's the first time that's happened to me!).

The not so good? 

  • The colour and fabric. I love the colour but I sometimes wish it was plain black like my first one.
  • The fabric isn't great but I can't expect miracles with Ikea curtain fabric. The same fabric type worked well with my first Minoru. I think the jacket just needs bedding in more to loosen it up a bit. I did interface and interline the entire jacket so this presently adds to the stiffness.
  • The sleeves. I've never had a ready to wear coat (or ready to wear anything for that matter) that properly fitted my long arms. Why oh why then did I not make the sleeves longer? Why didn't I notice this at the muslin stage?

French Hat Box Dress

The good.

  • The colour and fabric. It's lovely and soft. The neutral colour detracts from what could otherwise be considered a garish print (by my “un-garish standards” anyway).
  • The lining. The same fabric as my slip dress so soft and lovely to wear.
  • The zipper finish. With this make I perfected my zipper and lining insertion technique.
  • The rub-off method. Although this was a long and, at times, impossible process, with a lot of winging it, I'm glad I tried it. The method opens up so many possibilities and I definitely want to try it again.

The not so good?

  • The final muslin fit much better than the finished make. I know the reason for the skirt being bigger (my mistake) but I can't figure out why the bodice ended up larger as I transferred all my adjustments.
  • General thoughts. Despite my niggle with the fit, this dress is definitely a hit. I also made a version in blue. Both dresses were worn a lot this year.

Red Skater Dress

Hits and misses:

  • The colour. I love the colour but for me it is more of an evening dress. I wore it to the supermarket once and it felt so bright under the harsh light!
  • The fabric. Not a great quality but it's lovely and soft so it doesn't bother me.
  • The fit and style. I love the fit and flare silhouette. There may be more 50s style dresses in my future – a style I haven't yet tried. I'm glad I took the time to get the fit right on this Renfrew modification. Particularly in getting the bodice to stop at my waist. I could have settled for the half hearted dropped waist look of my first muslin but I didn't.
  • The skirt length. With this particular style, I don't know if it's the stretch fabric, but I prefer the shorter length of my blue skater dress. I've received compliments on the length so this is not a major issue and I still love the dress.

Blue Skater Dress

Cut and paste everything above about the Red Skater Dress, except there are fewer negatives with this one. The colour is not so loud and I love the skirt length.

Sugar Plum

Hits and misses.

  • The fabric and colour. I love the blouse fabric, the peachy colour and the print. It goes surprisingly well with the black skirt. It reminds me of a frothy milk shake or an ice cream sundae and so goes well with the dress name!
  • The fit. My only niggle is the sleeves. After my hacking they are now a bit restricting. It is only noticeable when I raise my arms (as in the hands on hip poses in the photo shoot). However, I'm not going to be rock climbing in this dress (or standing around with my hands on hips) so it's not a major issue.
  • The skirt lining. I wish I could cope with a wool skirt right next to tights but I can't so lining is essential for me. The lining defeats the point of the stretch skirt slightly. Maybe I can find a stretchy lining in future? Again this isn't a huge problem. I didn't make the skirt as fitted as the design intends so I can still move about and sit down comfortably.


I'm surprised I got a whole blog post talking about these few items. Although I only made a few things, I took my time with what I did make. I think this is why I am happy with all my makes this year. There's nothing on the list that I don't want to wear. On the whole it's been a successful year.

I don't have any immediate sewing plans. After the Sugar Plum I'm not yet ready to dive into another pattern. I bought some lovely fabric on eBay and I'm thinking of making another Burda top with it. I've made three of these tops now and they get worn all the time for work with a suit. If it ain't broke don't fix as they say. I think the top would be a perfect showcase for the fabric plus it will be a nice easy make after the challenges I've set myself this year!

Thank you to my lovely readers for following along with me throughout the year.

I hope you have a happy 2014. I'm sipping wine at the moment and and about to have some Tiramasu!

See you soon.


Sunday, 29 December 2013

Sugar Plum

I've finished my Sugar Plum dress from Lolita patterns!

I love this pattern. First up here are some pictures.

What I like about the design is that it's so different. A dress that look's like a skirt and top? I don't know why that should be so appealing. Probably because it's so darn different. The pattern also provides a bit of a challenge for the more experienced sewer. The button loops and modesty shield for example - so cute!

Amity, the designer, is lovely and ever so professional. Whenever I became stuck or wanted more information about the design I just emailed her and she responded straightaway.

I only wish I was able to finish in time for the Sugar Plum contest. Despite starting my muslin on 2 November 2013 I was miles away by 2 December 2013, the contest deadline. I finished putting the last button on today. In my last post I said I wouldn't finish this dress in 2013 so I've surprised myself by finishing it now!

Here are the details.


I used a wool knit fabric for the skirt (I can't remember the mix). I was all set to use a polka dot black and white fabric for the bodice when I remembered this lovely peach fabric I bought from the old lady. This close up of the fabric on the dress form will give you an idea of what it's like. It has an oriental feel.

First muslin

I traced and cut the pattern in a size 12. I was really happy with the style. My changes were to lengthen the bodice and remove some width from the hips and side seams. I emailed Amity and she said the waist line should fall on the lower seam of the waist band.

I lengthened the skirt pieces as I didn't want it any shorter than the un-hemmed muslin.

Sleeve Changes

I didn't like the original sleeves on me. It was more gathered than I would like at the top. I then added the vertical gathers at the sleeve hem to see if that improved things. It didn't. The sleeve was too big and stood up too much at the sleeve head. I wanted it to lay flat.

I had a go at removing all the excess fabric in the gathered sleeve head. I simply made a large dart at the shoulder seam and removed all the excess. I sewed the dart and tried it on to see what it looked like. Despite the less than professional technique I deployed this was a vast improvement.

I removed the sleeve and set about making up a new pattern piece. This was really hard to figure out. What I should have done was open up the patternmaking book I bought to see if it could offer any help. I'm a bit short on sewing time so that wasn't going to happen. I carried on winging it. All credit to the indie pattern makers (who do get a hard press from some snobbish quarters). This stuff is hard.

Where was I? Oh yes. I tried to alter the flat pattern but I couldn't figure out how to get it to lie flat. I then took my fabric sleeve piece, complete with dart, pressed it flat and traced around that, transferring all the markings. (Gingermakes – is this how they did it on your FIT course? Ha ha!)

I then made a further muslin from my new pattern piece. There was still a bit of gathering around the sleeve head but it was much more to my liking. I moved the notch for the shoulder seam to where it should correctly lay with the new cut.

The sleeve hem circumference was too big for my arm. Instead of just taking in the sleeve side seam I noticed there was a lot of excess fabric at the bottom of the sleeve at the back. I took about 2 cm out of that area by placing a dart at the sleeve hem. I sewed the dart to see what it looked like and it was much better. I then transferred my alteration to my pattern piece. Instead of taking out the 2 cm in one area, I distributed the amount to be removed by making small tucks which together added up to the 2 cm needed to be removed. The pattern piece now looked vastly different at the back (and downright odd!).

I changed the sleeve attachment method. The pattern has you make up the sleeve and lining and then set into the bodice, right sides together. This would leave you with a seam on the inside. I didn't want this seam and I like my lining to look clean on the inside with all the seams enclosed. Having made the Minoru jacket twice I know how easy it is to join the hem of a lined sleeve after the sleeve is attached so that's what I did.

Collar Changes

I muslined the neck ruffle to see what it looked like. It looked alright but a bit ruffley for my liking and not in keeping with the clean lines elsewhere. I then shortened the collar piece to make a stand collar. I preferred this style on me and I thought it was in keeping with the Japanese influence of the pattern.

The pattern calls for a single layer of fabric which is serged to prevent fraying. I preferred to make up the collar with two pattern pieces with enclosed seams.

I may make some further changes when I do the pattern again. I will interface the collar stand as it is a bit limp in this drapey fabric. I will also change the collar stand piece so that it is more vertical at the centre front rather than at a 45 degree angle.

Button Loops

The button loops nearly defeated me trying to turn them through. The pattern called for one long spaghetti strap, turned through, and cut into loop lengths.

The problem was my fabric. It was too delicate to turn through and frayed really easily at the edges. I ended up making up a couple of smaller length straps to practise on. I finished the seam with a zig zag stitch to stop it fraying and I pressed the seam allowance to one side. I used the hair clip method used in the Saltspring sew along. This worked well but I had to do it really slowly and pull the clip through carefully adjusting as I went along. If I yanked too hard the clip would break through the loop snipped at the top.

I also left off the top loop as I liked the look without. Next time I will put small strips of interfacing on the centre front edges to give more body to that area as it flops back slightly.


After finishing the seams and topstitching the waistband I decided to topstitch all the skirt princess seams. This was to try and reduce the “hanging” of the jersey fabric between the stitched panels. I'm not sure what the ruched effect was all about. I thought it may be because I didn't have the skirt quite as fitted as the design intends.

The pattern only has lining up to the waistband. As I need to be able to wear things easily with tights, I continued the lining to the skirt. My waistband facing pieces are in lining fabric rather than shell fabric as in the pattern.

I was disappointed with the skirt when I had finished because the princess seams still gave a ruched effect. Turns out all it needed was a good press, while slightly stretching the princess seams lengthwise. The ruching disappeared and I was happy once again!


I attached the invisible zip, and the zip to the lining, using my usual method (details and links can be found in this post if you're interested. (If you follow the links, I link to two step by step tutorials, the second of which does it exactly the way I do my zips and lining. I do my zippers and lining slightly different to the Sewaholic Cambie and Sunni Craftsy methods which I know a lot of sewers use).

I have a new way of matching waistband seams at the zipper tape. After stitching one side I close the zip and then line up the other centre back waist seams. I pin the zipper tape to mark where the waistband seams should go. I do small hand tacking stitches to mark these points rather than faffing around with my blunt and mostly useless chalk. I then do hand and then machine basting stitches to attach the waistband part only to the zipper tape, sewing between the two hand tacked stitches. I then close the zip and make sure the two waistband seams match. If they do then I complete the upper and lower parts of the zip.

I found that the top of the zipper tape finished about 3 mm further away from the top neck edge than on the other side. My bodice piece must have been slightly bigger. No problem because I just sewed the top neck edge 3 mm lower on that side so that it matched the other side.

Here are some pictures of the finished lining, front and back. I didn't use red lining because I thought it would go well with the peach fabric (ha ha!). It was because although the white lining (used for the bodice and waistband) was nice and soft, I didn't want to have white lining under a black skirt. The red fabric was the only lining I had that was as soft as the white lining.


I spent a good hour yesterday trying to find suitable buttons from my button stash. There was nothing suitable so I headed down to John Lewis today to buy these white pearl like buttons. (I was the only person in the Haberdashery! I love John Lewis by the way – such great customer service).

The pattern intends the buttons to be sewn on through the lining. I didn't want messy button stitching to interfere with the clean finish of the lining. I attached my buttons to the outer shell only but after adding a strip of interfacing to the wrong side. Next time I will add this strip of interfacing at the cutting stage as it was a faff to attach after the event.

I'm really pleased with the buttons and the little loops. Such a cute detail. The buttons are not the main closure which is just as well as they are fiddly to open and one of my loops came out too short.


I really like this pattern and there will definitly be another one. I might make it next even though I have a mountain of other exciting patterns I am anxious to start on!

With my reduced amount of sewing time (I work and live in London during the week and my sewing machine is in Norfolk) I have been consoling myself with buying patterns. I now have every possible Indie pattern I could ever want. I've also been slightly addicted to ebay pattern buying and I've bought a vintage Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress pattern!

Well that's it now for my completed makes for 2013!

I still hope to be back with some top 5 posts.

See you soon.


Friday, 27 December 2013

Blue Skater Dress

All I want for Christmas is ... to get all my 2013 makes onto the blog before the year end.  It hasn't quite happened so here is one of them.  My second Renfrew skater dress!

This version is the same as my first version in red (same fabric type as well).  I didn't have enough of the blue fabric to cut another circle skirt so this one is the muslin skirt used when practising my first version.  The skirt isn't as long as the red version but I quite like the shorter length.  It has a nice casual feel.  It's as brilliantly twirly as my first version.  (Twirliness factor - check.)

Despite using the same pattern as my first version, the top came out much bigger at the waist.  I therefore had to cinch in the waist with elastic at the back.  Sewing elastic into a finished make was no joke and nearly drove me mad!  It took nearly as long to mess about with the elastic as it did to make the rest of it!

The circle skirt was much easier to hem on this version as I was able to do it by machine.

Even with the elastic, the waist wasn't cinched in enough for my liking. I added ties using this tutorial from the Darling Ranges sew along.  I made the ties much longer than the Darling Ranges ones which are tiny.  The ties make such a difference and the cinched in waist is now complete!

This dress is every bit as comfortable as my first version.  I wore my red version on Christmas Day - the perfect Christmas dress for sitting around in and rushing about making the Christmas dinner.   I've worn the blue one quite a bit already as well (I finished it quite a while ago).

I was hoping to finish my Sugar Plum in time for the year end but that isn't going to happen so that will be a 2014 make now.  I haven't managed to photograph my second Florence and Fred Rub off dress for the blog.  I also made a pencil skirt for my mother which I will have to photograph at some point for the blog. I got around to changing the zip on my Plain Black (Almost) Miss Chalmer's skirt. That was such a pain to do.  I had to sew on extra fabric to the centre back edges.  It hasn't come out perfectly, and the piping at the back doesn't line up now, but at least I can wear the skirt again.

I hope to be back before the year end with a top 5 post (even though I haven't made enough to exactly qualify for that!).

I hope everyone had a great Christmas.

See you soon!