Friday, 19 February 2016

Patchwork peg bag

After years of flat-dwelling, one of the nicest things about living in a house, with a garden, is the ability to dry clothes on a line.  The wonderful smell of freshly laundered sheets blown dry by a sunlit spring breeze!  But this means pegs.  We had the pegs laying around in the bottom of the clothes basket for a few months before I came across the perfect pattern for a peg bag in a magazine.

Here is my version.  The front is made up of four strips of scrappy patchwork which is pieced first to make panel which can be cut down to shape and size.

Patchwork peg bag front

The patchwork front panel is lined with a cream-coloured honey bee print cotton left over from another project.

I used an oh so simple straight stitch to finish the seam allowances together.

seam finish

The hook and crossbar are taken from a child's clothes hanger.  Usually hangers are curved.  This one happened to be straight but is easy enough to shape the top of the bag to suit whatever you have to hand.  A gap in the seam at the top centre of the bag allows the hook to protrude.  Very useful to hang the bag on the line leaving hands free for the washing.

The back is a single piece but could just as easily be patchwork if you had the inclination.  I rather love this cheerful little bag.

Peg Bag back

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

You say pants but I say trousers

A few months ago The Much Belovéd arrived home with two new pairs of trousers both of them of the long unfinished hem variety.
"Would you be able to shorten these for me please?" he asked.
"Yes of course darling.  I would be delighted to help you with that."  I replied knowing full well that I have never pinned or hemmed expensive wool trousers before in my life.  The last time TMB got a tailor to do this for him I was less than complimentary about the outcome so let us just say that failure, on this occasion, would not be an option.

I have restitched the hems of my own trousers on the odd occasion when then have needed repair but I have never tackled the whole job from scratch and I knew I was going to need to top notch guidance on exactly what to do.

I turned to my copy of Roberto Cabrera and Patricia Flaherty Meyers, 'Classic Tailoring Techniques: A Construction Guide for Women's Wear', (New York 1984).  This may seem an odd choice as I was altering gent's trousers but at the time I wanted to buy Cabrera's book the Menswear version was rather hard and or expensive to track down.  It was republished towards the middle of last year so I now have a copy of both.  The instructions are concise but clear and equally applicable to trousers worn by men or women.

I had TMB try the trousers on with a pair of shoes and pinned up the legs so that the hem reached roughy the middle of the back of his shoe and broke gently on the instep at the front.  Cabrera and I both agree that this is the right length for trousers some modern retailers disagree and favour the concertina look!  I got him to walk around a bit, look in the mirror and try sitting down to get his approval on the length before he took the trousers off again.

The next step was to mark the fold of the hem on the right side using chalk.  Wow! Chalk really works much better on wool flannel than it does on cotton poplin.  The amount left was obviously far too much to turn under as a hem I would have to cut some of the fabric away.

So I chalked another line about two inches below...

Took a deep breath and chopped.  I was VERY nervous about cutting into these but needs must.  I didn't really like the way that my nice clean cut edge began to fray so quickly.  Maybe I should have used the pinking shears but I hadn't so there you go.  I used the scraps to trial a machine zigzag to finish the raw edge but I didn't like the outcome.

I opted instead for something decidedly more old school.  Over casting the edge by hand.  This is a technique I had seen in an online reproduction of a very old leaflet on seam finishes.  It took a bit of time but it sewing by hand without a deadline is very therapeutic, especially when the daylight is good.

I turned the trouser leg inside out and pinned the hem back up along the chalked fold line.

And then tacked the the hem up keeping the stitches about an inch down from the top of the hem.  A really great tip is to insert a piece of cardboard into the trouser leg to stop yourself from tacking one side of the leg right through to the other.  I used part of a cereal box.

Then I turned the trousers right side out again and steam pressed the hem flat - nice!

Then I stitched the hems by hand trying to keep my stitches small enough to be invisible and loose enough not to pucker.  The result was perhaps not the work of a master tailor but I was satisfied and even better than that so was the prospective wearer.  On balance I really enjoyed the challenge.  Working with wool was a nice change and I am sore tempted to set to and sew myself a pair of tailored trousers sometime during 2016.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Disappearing Nine Patch - Part II

I have sewn all of the three patch rows into nine patch blocks - nine of them in total.  The blocks are all basically the same with a red value patch in the middle and a 'colour' at each corner.  The remaining blocks are cream.

Having spent several hours carefully sewing these patches together I am about to cut them up.  Yes!  That's right - I haven't gone mad.  I made one cut vertically down the centre of the block using the seam line to help me.  The cut has to be made two and a quarter inches from the seam.  Another cut is then made horizontally across the block again two and a quarter inches from the seam lines.

Now the nine-patch block is separated to make four asymmetrical four-patch blocks.  I repeated these cuts on the remaining eight nine-patch blocks.

The result is 36 four-patch blocks - six of each colour.

These blocks have gone together very quickly.  Since I shortened the belt on the Singer 201K it hasn't slipped once and the machine, which was fairly enjoyable to sew with, has become a joy to use.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Disappearing Nine Patch - Part I

I have decided to start my sewing year with a quilt.  I've spent quite a while thinking about what I want to do with fabrics I already have and in the time I have available.

I have been reading up about disappearing nine patch quilts here, here and here.  I was taken with the setting which imitates sashing and corner stones and decided that might work with the fabrics I have to hand at the moment.

Working from the premise that my individual squares would be cut at five inches based on the common size of commercially available charm packs I began to do some sums.

My quilt will be made up of nine nine patches that's 84 individual squares which would equate to two commercial charm packs at 42 squares each.  These will be made up of:

  • Nine red for centre of the nine patch blocks - these will become the corner stones
  • Thirty-six cream for the middle patches on each side of the blocks - these will become the sashing
  • Thirty-six coloured prints for the corner patches of each block - I cut six of each from six different fabrics

Here are all the squares cut out nice and tidy - a couple of hours work over a couple of evenings last week.  Speed is of the essence with this project as I don't have loads of time and I need to keep the momentum up.

The next step was to chain piece nine red squares to nine cream and then set aside nine cream for later.

I am working on the Singer 201K1.   I have read that this is the correct designation for a Kilbowie built machine originally fitted to a treadle.  I recently shortened the belt on this one.  It has made a world of difference.  The belt must have stretched making it tricky to get the machine to start and stop.  It had a tendency to run backwards at the beginning, run-on when stopping and stalling altogether when crossing thicker seams.  I took about 3/8ths of an inch off the length for the time being and now the machine is performing faultlessly.

The thread is Gütermann 100% cotton and the machine is set to 15 stitches per inch. I used my trusty cloth guide to help maintain a scant quarter inch seam.  I chain pieced the 18 remaining cream coloured squares to 18 of the mixed colours, three of the six different fabrics.  This is the resultant heap of chain piecing.

I snipped the paired squares apart and had a bit of a tidy up.  Here are the paired up squares stacked on the treadle table prior to pressing.  I production lined my pressing.  Pressing all 27 pairs as sewn and then open with all seams away from the cream squares.  I tried letting all my pressing cool on the ironing board before moving the units.  I'm told it helps the pressed seam allowances stay put.

My next step was to add the remaining nine cream squares to the opposite edge of the red ones.

And then the remaining 18 mixed colours to the other pairs.  Selection of the mixed prints at this stage isn't too crucial.  The reason for this will become clear next time.

Much more pressing and the nine patches are starting to take shape!  From winding the bobbin to taking the last photograph took just under three hours.  A nice way to spend a blustery Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Oliver + S: Family Reunion Dress

This is a dress I made around the end of 2014 in readiness for Christmas of that year.  I never got around to blogging about at the time.  I did however take some photographs during making up.  I bought the digital version of the pattern, printed it all out and stuck it together with tape.  I don't mind the process too much.  My version is sized to 24 months.  At the time the recipient was only 16 months but I pictured this dress getting more wear during the following summer and as it was intended to be a surprise I allowed lots of margin for growth.

I had a nice pale blue 100% cotton print in the stash, a little fusible interfacing and some reused shirt buttons.  The apparently simple, short-sleeved, A-line dress has quite a bit of detail.

The dress is shaped by tucks over the chest and back.  I sewed the dress using the Singer 201K treadle and used a vintage tuck marker to help me form the tucks.  Using the vintage attachment was fun but I would imagine that with careful measurements and thread marking one could easily manage without.

The dress buttons up the back.  I made the buttonholes on the Singer 201K fitted with Greist buttonholer.  The neckline facing is interesting in that it is turned to the right side and edge stitched in place.

The pattern has nice deep seam allowances and gives the usual modern instructions for finishing them with a zig-zag, serger or however else you might wish to.  I cribbed Muv's flat felled shoulder seams from the child's dress pattern she drafted and made.  The sleeves are hemmed, gathered and attached to the armscye before the side seams are closed.  I finished the sleeve head seam allowance with a zig-zag using the Singer 401G.  This was quick but if I made the pattern again I might make matching bias and use that to bind this seam. 

I used good old reliable French seams to close the sides of the dress which just made my zig-zag short cut on the armholes look even sloppier.

The pattern made quite a feature of what Oliver+S calls its signature hem.  This consists of a deep hem facing, worthy of the 1840s, turned to the inside and edge stitched.

The facing is then decorated with an additional five rows of topstitching spaced at quarter inch intervals.  The result is a good looking, firm hem which hangs well and is suggestive of hard wear.

This was a a very sweet little project to sew.  I would definitely make it again and would look at using Oliver+S patterns again in the future.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Welsh quilt inspired sampler

I think it is nice, sometimes, to not really know where I am going until I get there.  That is how it was with this piece of work.  I cannot bring myself to refer to it as a project as that might imply that I had some sort of plan.  At some point I had been loaned a Kaffe Fasset book that included a quilt top pieced from a variety of striped shirtings in four triangle squares.

Well I messed about with some triangles and came up with some less than delightful squares one of which just about looked like it might be a distant relative of something from a Kaffe Fasset quilt (see above top left corner.  This was where direction changed both literally and notionally.  The nasty squares became the back of a tiny sampler for some quilting

I had been reading about the wonderful quilts produced in Wales between the first and second world wars.  What really fascinated me about these was reading how quilts were marked out by professionals who sometimes stamped the designs onto whole cloth quilt tops which would be sold and sometimes they were marked out by drawing around ordinary house hold objects like tea cups, plates and irons.  I was rather captivated by the idea but doubtful that I would find myself marking out and hand quilting a double sized bedspread.  Instead I made up a small quilt sandwich and grabbed a tea plate and pencil.  I marked out this simple motif of circles leaves and chevrons.

Traditionally this type of quilting would be done by hand but I quilted this sampler on my Singer 15K hand crank machine making up the infill as I went along.  It's a bit wonky here and there but I find the slightly naive effect pleasing.  I ended up thinking of the technique as a sort of straight-line-semi-free-motion quilting.  I doubt it will catch on but I felt I had spent enough time on this to add a binding.  I did a bit of hand ladder stitching on the binding - way too tight just look at all those puckers!  I've hung this little oddity, from one corner, on a nail that was in the wall of the sewing room.  I don't think anyone really knows what to make of it but yellow and white always makes me think of fried egg and somehow my interest in and appetite for Welsh and Durham whole cloth quilts has been whetted.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Three little Dicky birds

I can't claim this as my own.  It's a vintage item that The Much Belovéd's mother sent from the US.  I think it is such fun I wanted to share it with you all.  I think it is the cutest tea towel I have ever seen and in some ways it's too good to use.  I guess this dates from 
the late 1950s or early 60s.

A closer look reveals how deceptively simple this appliqué is.  Each bird is made up of two contrasting strips of bias with the twig made of brown bias.  the eyes, beaks and legs are back stitched with embroidery thread.  Anyone feeling inspired to make a copy?

Also from the 1950s I leave you with some other singing birds - British ones this time though.