Saturday, 29 December 2007

Long time no sew

For Christmas this year I received a sewing machine and quilting foot. Although I haven't yet had a chance to play with said machine* I'm piecing together a top layer on my mum's machine so that I can play with the quilting foot as soon as I get home at the end of the holidays. A brand new cosy quilt should do something to lift the back to work blues.

So far I've pieced together twelve 15cm blocks, all variations on the same star. I found the block patterns at a wonderful site, Quilter's Cache, which has over 1300 quilt block patterns written by the very prolific (it would seem) Marcia Hohn.

Quilt blocks

There's a photo of all the blocks so far here. Flickr appears to be having a bit of an episode as far as this photo is concerned so I can't post it directly.

All the fabric came from Hobbycraft - which really does have some nice stuff. Whilst I was there I also treated myself to an Olfa rotary cutter (as the cheapo one I bought back at the festival of quilts show wasn't really cutting it, literally) and a square ruler which, whilst I love it to bits, has the drawback of being marked only in cm and half cm. This led me to, for the sake of easy calculations add a half cm of seam allowance rather than the traditional quarter inch. It's not a disaster but it would have been nicer, in retrospect, to have the extra 1 1/4 mm! Luckily I've got a cutting ruler marked with both back home so I'm not totally stuck with metric! Another thing which I have at home but not at my parent's place is a cutting board, however, I managed to improvise and discovered that a (unused) plastic chopping board for vegetables makes an excellent substitute.

* I chose it at the Trafford Centre John Lewis with my mum back in October and it travelled back down to the midlands/south-east England (the local news cannot make up its mind about what region we're in) in the boyfriend's car after my cousin's wedding in early December. Given that we had issues getting the machine from the John Lewis pickup point to the car, let alone onto two trains and a bus, with all my other luggage, I think this was a wise move.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Comfort stitching

I've been down with the lurgy all this week which has played havoc with my marathon training but given me plenty of time to work on the quilt with the result's finished!

The quilting was done using running stitch around each rectangle and the edges are bound with strips of the backing (snail) fabric.

I wasn't sure how machine stitching the bindings would work out without a walking foot for the machine so I hand stitched each strip in place with running stitch, then folded over the edge and stitched down the other side with mattress stitch.

Pinned edge

I wasn't feeling quite up to dealing with mitred corners so I just squared them and closed up the open ends with mattress stitch.

Quilt corner

I'm so pleased with the finished quilt and I really enjoyed the hand sewing. I don't quite have the technique down yet though. When I was at the Festival of Quilts I saw stitchers gathering several stitches on the needle at once and then pulling the needle through. I'm still working one stitch at a time - at least they're not too wonky though. Still my seams are pretty straight and the whole thing looks very neat. The best bit is that I've found out that my sister has chosen green for the nursery with cream/green/blue curtains (which my Mum is busy stitching) so it will even match.

Baby quilt

Baby quilt

Monday, 1 October 2007

Finished object - red and white flowered shirt

Shirt (front)

I'm really pleased with how this has turned out, especially given that it's my first attempt at a sewn garment and it was made rather on the fly.

Shirt (back)

The collar is a little shorter than it should be (I've not even tried to give it a top button) and I had to make it sleeveless after I ran out of time on the machine. The armholes are bound off with a thin strip of the fabric instead. Still I don't think I can ask for much more than a wearable garment from my first go.

Next up I want to make this shirt (or at least something similar) from Burda Style in an insane green flowery print.

Meanwhile I've finally washed the wadding for the quilt so I should be able to start the quilting this weekend once the bottom piece is also washed and dry. I'll be quilting by hand in the same green thread which I used for the piecing.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Cute as a button

Cupcake buttons

I picked these up in Hobbycraft last week. I haven't decided whether to use them as buttons or whether to make pin badges a la Kirsty. Either way, they're cute as can be. I've also got some (slightly less exciting) buttons for my shirt, they're sewn on and I'll post pictures of the finished item as soon as my official photographer returns. Self-portraits featuring shirts are a good deal more tricky than self-portraits featuring socks it turns out.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Burda style

Ellen, who is a much more experienced seamstress than I am and who said "You didn't make a muslin? That was brave" in much the same tone as I might say "You didn't knit a gauge swatch?", pointed me to this great site which not only offers free patterns but also sewing "how to's" - which means that for my next project I won't have to wuss out on the sleeves, yes my blouse has turned into a sleeveless one. I'll be taking some pictures of it as soon as I've found the right buttons.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Shirt making 101

After a little difficulty (I really must buy a fabric pencil!) I got my three main pattern pieces marked and cut out on the material. I wasn't really sure how you were meant to mark the places for darts (since I was making this up as I went along) so I cut them out of the pattern and marked round the inside of the cut paper - it seemed rational.

Pattern pieces

I stitched up the front darts but thought it would be cunning plan to pin the three pieces together and see what it looked like before sewing the two back darts which turned out to be a very good idea. Once, pinned on I stopped worrying that it was going to be far too big and started worrying instead that it would be on the small side. The back darts, therefore, will be left unsewn.

Pinned in place

Mum was a great help in all this as she was able to share the secrets of her dress-making past!

Also, very excitingly, the parents suggested that I might like a sewing machine for Christmas* (would I!) so I'll be researching that in the next few weeks. If anyone has any personal recommendations I'd be very interested to hear. The budget is between £100-£200 and I'd be using it for quilting and clothes making.

* this, of course, could just be a cunning ruse to stop me cluttering up their home with sewing stuff every time I come to visit!

Friday, 21 September 2007

Not a quilt

flower fabric

I found this in King's (our local fabric place) when I dropped in after work today to see if they had any thimbles*. They don't have a huge selection and this stood out as being a really pretty pattern and 100% cotton (yay).

I have plans for a blouse copied from my favourite polka dot shirt from New Look with possibly a couple of variations - depending on how things go.

I've drawn and cut out paper pattern pieces for the fronts and back and things seem to add up so far but I'm not going to do any more tonight as I'm fairly severely sleep deprived** and I know that disaster would ensue.

I'm headed up north tomorrow so hopefully I can get some machine sewing done over the weekend and I'll have a new shirt by next week!

There's been no further progress on the quilt since my last post on the subject. I haven't found a moment to pre-wash the back and wadding but hopefully I'll have a chance next weekend. I'm also waiting until I see what type of sewing machine we have in Bolton (I really don't remember) so I can suss out a walking foot and decide whether I want to machine or hand quilt the quilt. I think that hand qilting (done well) is prettier, but I have a feeling that my own running stitches will be quite wonky.

* they did but, as a former digitabulist, I'm quite picky and they didn't quite meet my high standards :)

** in fact it's due to waking up at three am this morning with my brain buzzing that I decided to make a blouse at all.