Jasper

Just had to share this picture of an indignant Jasper. He’s modelling a new bathrobe made by Big Sis for getting him dried off more quickly when he’s been out in the rain/playing in the mud/had a bath. Fleecey outer layer, towelling inner. She told him he wouldn’t have to wear it in public but he’s obviously not convinced.

jasper-coat

 

Big sis’s wip 3 and a gift

A small parcel was ‘tossed’ through our letterbox today. I say ‘tossed’ because it landed at least three feet away from the door and the definition of ‘tossed’ according to one online dictionary is “to throw lightly or with a flourish, especially with the palm of the hand upwards. I can’t quite visualise the postman delivering mail with a flourish but that aside, I think ‘tossed’ is one of those words that deserves to be repeated several times, after which it somehow ceases to have any meaning at all.

Aaaany waaaay…. A big thank you to Big Sis who sent the parcel which contained fancy swanky thread snips. I hadn’t long ago bought replacement snips for about £1 but found them difficult to balance under my thumb due to the narrow blades so I added thumb supports of a sort. I used plastic tubing cut open lengthwise, rolled it around the base of the blades and secured the tube with duck tape. It worked surprisingly well and the snips were much more comfortable to use. My scrap length of elastic landyard kept the snips handy but I’ve been surprised that I haven’t yet snipped myself or my clothing when bending from a seated position to pick up something up from the floor. The new deluxe snips are designed to be hung around the neck when the very secure cover is on but I can see me putting the snips down on my work area and later expecting to find them hanging from the neck cord but they are bright enough to (hopefully) be found quickly.

thread-snips

Latest Footpath to Quarndon wip work done – a few distant fields, trees and hedges.

wip-fields

 

 

a new toy

This post is quite extremely wordy and is all about my new toy, an overlocker, so feel free to leave now!

I’ve considered buying an overlocker for a few years but always baulked at the price since it’s not something that I would use every day or possibly even every week. However….. when I saw that Aldi were selling them recently at a very reasonable price, I paid a visit to my local branch telling JP that it was too good a bargain to miss but I wasn’t surprised to find that they had none. I hadn’t spoken to Big Sis about the Aldi offer so I was happily surprised when a couple of days later, she rang me from her local Aldi’s to say that they were selling overlockers for £130 and did I want one? Of course I did, so she bought one on my behalf (and then went back the same afternoon to buy one for herself). Mine was delivered last Saturday by courier and I’ve been practicing with it every day since I took it out of the box. It’s a 2, 3, or 4 thread Singer,  model 14SH754.

Pros: no raw edges on seams from now on; rolled hems will be a dawdle to achieve; it’s fast; different types of thread give interesting results (much like on a sewing machine); most overlockers work on the same principals so videos online are helpful even if they’re not using your particular model to demonstrate with.

Cons: it’s loud but I’ve heard that said of overlockers in general; threading is neither difficult nor scary but can be a little awkward; increasing static from the overlocker (polyester) thread (I think) is causing me some concern; the instruction manual is basic and all the photo images are black and white only making clarification difficult at times; the book talks about yellow and orange looper threads but threading indicators on the machine itself are yellow and red; the light could be brighter and it would be beneficial if it shone over the stitching area and not mainly to the left of it.

Mrs G’s Handy Hints:

1. The coloured markers I stuck on initially to remind me of the threading paths and order of threading continue to be an excellent idea, particularly when using 4 spools of one colour.

2. I bought only one cone each of ivory and black overlocker thread so I filled empty sewing machine thread spools with overlocker thread using instructions from here but subsequently found that my Janome bobbin winder spindle will hold the spools securely and spin without needing a bobbin attached. When I used the ‘glue a bobbin on’ version using ancient Singer bobbins that were slightly curved at top and bottom, it was difficult to attach them dead-centre on the spool end. Also, when overlocking, the thread sometimes caught on an unseen spot or two of excess glue and the spool then rose up the thread holder in an attempt to escape or the thread stopped feeding through altogether. The bobbin-on-the-base is still a great hack though and might suit you more than it did me.

3. The following videos are just some of the many that I found to be extremely useful and I thank the folk that made them:

http://www.makery.uk/2015/05/serger-series-part-1-anatomy/

http://www.makery.uk/2015/06/serger-series-part-2-threading/

http://www.makery.uk/2015/06/serger-series-part-3-nailing-tension/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9t5UlT4ypA   (Singer instructional DVD in English)

http://www.sewingpartsonline.com/blog/beginners-guide-to-serging-episode-1   (11 episodes in total)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P32AaSlBXAw   (Curves and corners from a series on overlockers and sewing machines)

4. Doing a test piece before overlocking the real thing is Always A Good Idea.

5. Threading the overlocker does requires patience and some dexterity but the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. If the stitches don’t look right, re-thread the machine like you would your sewing machine if the tension was off. It’s all good threading practice if nothing else!

6. The tweezers that came with the overlocker look as if they wouldn’t grip anything in their smooth jaws and Big Sis said she wasn’t keen on them but I think they’re perfect for the job. I have several other pairs of (angled) tweezers but none grip the thread as easily as the ones supplied with the machine.

7. A loop turner is very handy for securing the thread chains at the start and end of a seam. I didn’t have one until two days ago and was instead using a very small crochet hook which was OK in the absence of a turner or the patience to thread a large eye needle with a short chain.

8. I’ve gotten into the habit of turning the tension dials to zero whenever I thread the overlocker but not always remembering to return them to where they were which is another reason why 4. above is important!

*  *  *

Am I happy with my new toy? You betcha! I’ve coped more than adequately without one but it is lovely to be able to finish off raw edges on a machine that’s built for the purpose and to sew a rolled hem without having to use a fancy foot on the sewing machine.

The first thing I ‘made’ was a dust cover, which JP says makes the overlocker look like an old-fashioned shop till. Using 4 threads meant the seams were stitched and overlocked at the same time. I’d show you the beautiful seams but I added a lining too so all the seams are now hidden. I also cnostructed a thread waste pocket using the overlocker (purely as another practice piece since the waterproof fabric doesn’t need to be overlocked) and although it’s a bit rough and ready, the pocket does the job and also stores my accessories bag when I’m done overlocking for the day. A handle from an old Ikea metal basket holds the front open, and additional support is given by two lengths of small diameter plant sticks which lie along the sides of the pocket and are secured under the excess fabric which wraps around a sheet of cardboard. overlocker

overlocker-cover

 

 

new neckline, new sleeves

Two posts in one day – you lucky readers! Way back in August, when I was waxing lyrical about my new sewing light (still fab by the way) I showed a top (smaller image below) I’d made from leftover ponte de roma fabric. I subsequently didn’t like the neckline much. Turtles and tortoises came to mind each time I tried it on so I restyled the neckline to lie flatter with an additional button detail. No piccies of that I’m afraid and not long after I did that, I decided I’d change the neckline again. I’m a woman, go figure.

This is the third and final change – Tee shirt fabric of a lighter weight than the ponte was used for the sleeve cuffs and neck binding with top stitching at raglan seams etc in matching pink thread. The upper sleeves were also re-shaped to give a better fit. I’ve worn it a few times and I’m happy with it. It might seem from the image that one sleeve is shorter than the other but I assure you they are both the same length and the hem is level all round too!pull on top

blue-ponte-roma-top

dress to top #2

Yet another charity shop dress bought recently. I wanted at least three-quarter length sleeves if possible but with only cap sleeves and an un-generous amount of skirt to work with, I had a real challenge on my hands. How did I miss those cap sleeves when I was buying this? Any fabric left after cutting the dress to an acceptable length for a top would be used to cut new sleeves, no matter what length they turned out to be. I unpicked the existing cap sleeves from the bodice and used them to draft a pattern for the new sleeves, knowing that they would then fit the original armholes. I don’t like myself in close fitting wrap-fronts so I inserted a centre panel and gave the front neckline a little detail using the original neck-edge binding opened flat. The centre panel sits cross-wise to the main bodice and I had to add extra fabric pieces to the bottom edge but the pattern helps to camouflage it and the neck detail hopefully takes the eye upwards. It’s not a brilliant top but it’s wearable and it was another excellent exercise in sewing with knit fabrics. I even enjoyed finding the best way to unravel yards of overlocked seams and bindings in one go. Well, two goes at least.

grey-dress

grey-top-1

grey-top-2

refashion lessons learned

This blue top was made from a finer knit fabric than the wrap dress in the previous post. At first I planned to reduce the waterfall effect of the original cardigan, shorten the length to remove the points, and reduce the width at the shoulders. Well, there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious… soooo I removed the set-in sleeves, trimmed the shoulders, took in the side seams to adjust for the now widened arm scye and re-cut the sleeves to fit but it didn’t work out too well. The shoulders and sleeves were fine but now it was a little less roomy across the back – I had forgotten to consider that altering the shoulder width and reshaping the arm scye would also narrow the width of the back. I then convinced myself that it would still be wearable if I wore slinky sleeveless vests underneath so I went ahead and pinned and basted my proposed refashioning for the hem and front edges. Unfortunately it now looked Very Boring Indeed instead of just Slightly Dated But With Possibilities. Another top was beginning to look like a better option and this time, if the refashioning failed, it had only cost me £4, several hours of dithering, and some lessons learned the hard way.

To hang on to what was left of my sanity a little longer, I unpicked every single seam whilst semi-watching three episodes of Suits, at the end of which a raglan sleeve top was climbing rapidly to the top of the possibles list. I found excellent instructions from Autumn on how to draft a raglan sleeve from a standard tee shirt and downloaded her breezy tee pattern to work from. Thanks to Autumn, the raglan sleeves ended up being the easiest part of this refashion project. A godet inserted into each side seam addressed the problem of the front and back pieces being slightly narrower than desired due to the limited fabric available. I couldn’t add any length to the body which is a little shorter than I’d like but it’s still a decent length. I increased the sleeves length by adding a band of scrap fabric cut cross-wise and then added a cuff for visual interest and even more length. The cuffs and neck facing were cuttings from the hem of another knit fabric dress I had shortened previously. The photo shows my third (and best) neck facing thanks to Sarai Mitnick’s Colette patterns blog, where I found brilliant instructions on various methods for attaching neck bindings.

 

blue-after

 

blue-godet

blue-before

refashioning clothes

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been busy with patterns and fabric and refashioning charity shop finds. I thought that it was time to expand my limited skills when it came to sewing knit fabrics and a larger size wrap dress in a charity shop was an excellent candidate for practising on. If the end result was less than perfect or totally useless, I had only spent £6. I used the Retro Jersey Top pattern from the September issue of  Make It Today! Dressmaker magazine but altered the pattern by raising the front neckline a little, omitting the centre-front inverted pleat, giving the side seams a little flare, and stitching the neck facing on the inside. I don’t own an overlocker so I tested various stitches on fabric scraps before settling for the standard knit stitch on my Janome and then trimming the excess fabric with scissors. The knit stitch is a pain to unpick and there’s really no need for you to ask how I know that. My new top is very comfortable to wear and has a nice drape to it and whilst wearing a bold patterned fabric like this is well out of my comfort zone I didn’t get odd looks from anyone when I wore it in public so that’s a win as far as I’m concerned!

 

wrap-after

wrap-before