Wednesday, 31 December 2014

New knitting challenges

It's New Years Eve and I feel that there is alot to get excited about. Not this evening specifically, but more what's in store for the New Year. As well as the usual sewing and pattern cutting challenges I have set myself new knitting and refashioning challenges.

This post is about the knitting and it's happened very organically, but I have decided to join in with the (very relaxed) instagram KAL hosted by Jess (@shoplamercerie), Amy (@seamstressandtheband) and Jen (@grainlinestudio). They’re using the IG hashtag #sundaysweaterkal and it should be good fun if you fancy joining in!

I haven't actually knitted for at least a year since Maria was born, so it will be good to get back into it. I was just starting to pick things back up when I saw this KAL, which has really got me excited.

Not content with making things easy for myself, I have decided to write a knitting pattern for the Hemlock tee. It's a great shape for a knitted jumper and relatively easy to calculate. I was thinking of using this Brooklyn Tweed pattern, but then started looking through my existing knitting patterns and couldn't justify adding another one to the collection. If this fails though, I may resort back to my original plan as it's a really gorgeous pattern. A little known fact to you bloggy fellows is that when I graduated from uni, I dreamed of becoming a knitwear designer. I was 25 when I started my degree and had been sewing for ages already, but knitting was totally new to me and I basically inhaled knitting books, experimented with yarns, stitches and knitting scale for three years. Pattern cutting was an important part of the degree too, as I worked alot with wovens still, but it was the knitting that got me truly excited. I'm a bit all or nothing with it though, as I am a slowish knitter and it takes a while for my ideas to turn into something,. My energy peaks and troughs with knitting, where as I am always sewing and completing woven garments.

It's actually great to start out with a good jersey shape that I know already, as I know I like the fit and this is exactly how you toile a knitted piece anyway. You make a jersey version and once you are happy with the fit you then chart your knitting pattern. So I have squared everything of a bit and removed the sleeve head. I am making up and writing the pattern as I go along, but with these measurements as a reference. If the first sleeve looks weird without the original top shaping then I may go back and change it, but after knitting several jumpers for my children with flat sleeve tops I am confident it should work....should!!!

I have worked out my stitch repeat that goes across the width and am currently knitting the back, so it's just a case of knitting straight up until I get to the back neck shaping. This is hopefully what my design will look like.

And here is what I've done so far!

I am so excited about this project, as I needed something completely different to get my teeth stuck into. Now my problem is that I am so excited, I want to cast on another one right away. I am imagining all the knits that I don't have time for and want them all now!!!

Is it me or does this cold weather bring the knitter out?

Monday, 29 December 2014

Me-made tights!

I have done something completely unexpected and made myself some tights! Not only that, but it's going to me my new pattern, but before I get onto that. I shall go through the how's and why's.

It all started off with a striped wool knit and a random comment about tights really. It kind of flicked a switch that wouldn't go off until I explored the idea properly. I remember Carolyn's tights that she wore during me-made May and I was in total in awe of them at the time. She took wearing me-mades to a whole new level for me. I do love wearing hand made, but I was quite happy to sit back and accept that I could not be bothered with the idea of making underwear, tights or t-shirts. Alot has changed this year and my ambitions have grown, so I re-read her blog post where she explained how she made them and set myself a challenge.

The first pair I made from that tutorial are totally wearable, but the pattern needed refinining for me to want to use it time and time again, so I made a tights block. Obviously the more work I did, the more it made sense to make it into my next pattern. I'm not saying that this will always happen to every self-draft I ever do, but it feels that this is something that alot of people could use.

I don't know about you, but I have a real issue with RTW tights. I buy Large and sometimes X-Large, just to get the length I want. I am not tall and have a 29" inside leg, but as you can see from the photos, I have curvy legs which stretches tights on the width leaving me little for the length. I also love to have tights that go right up over my hips and cover my belly. I'm always tugging tights up as high as possible in a bid to reduce drop crotch and muffin top, which makes me question why didn't I make these sooner? Hopefully I've addressed all these things and more, but really don't know if this is something that fellow sewists want to make too. I can't tell you how fun (and easy) they are to make though. Making tights is reeeally addictive and I'm even considering binning all RTW tights. Bold moves and statements a plenty.

So what are they really like? See for yourselves. FYI, since posting pics of me in a swimming costume I am not even a little bit phased about these pictures. Funny how these things go!

This first pair has a two piece leg (main leg piece with a shorts top) and heel turn gusset (like you have in a pair of socks)...

Whilst this second pair is directly inspired by Carolyn's tights with a one piece leg and inner leg seam. These are the easiest and quickest, whilst the first pair have some really good colour blocking and stash busting potential.

The waistband is finished with 1.5" wide elastic for a secure top and I have test worn all of my samples to date and there is little shifting and crotch sagging throughout the day. They are designed to be snug and smooth to reduce mis-shaping, but are not tight like support wear. The grey pair and the shorts top of the lace pair are made from cotton lycra, so it's actually like wearing some nice warm leggings. I didn't fancy having lace around my bum and tum, so used the softer cotton lycra instead!

Time for some more photos

These were sewn entirely on my overlocker using a three thread stitch, but if you are used to sewing knits on your sewing machine then a zig zag would do. My favourite samples so far are the lace ones for looking like actual tights and the cotton lycra for being so warm. I have not used any specialist or technical fabrics, just whatever was available at my local fabricland. The lace is a nylon/spandex mix, the cotton lycra has 5%lycra and the coral and purple are 100% polyester knits. All have at least 50% stretch.

So, what do you think, are you interested? Is this something you had ever considered?

The pattern is with the testers as we speak and will be available to buy just past the middle of January. The pattern comes in three leg lengths (29, 32 and 35") with different foot size options (EU35 to 42). There is absolutely nothing stopping you however from reading Carolyns post and having a go at creating your own pattern. It was actually quite fun to do, but be careful where you place those pins!!!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Freemantle cardigan

Well you've all seen my woven versions that are true to the pattern, but I thought that I would share this knitted version that I am so excited about. I have chosen to make a combination of VIEW A and C. The neckline and front closure of VIEW A on the pattern has been combined with the shorter, narrow sleeved VIEW C. Warning! This post is just a teeny bit photo heavy!!!

Before we even go any further I need to explain that after these first photos were taken (green background), I realised that the fabric overlap on the centre front was too large and looked messy. You can see how much it extends past the button holes. I could not live with this, so went back and modified it slightly, but I will talk about this more in a bit when I go over how I changed the construction. For now, here is a before and after picture!

I used some pretty superb fabrics here by the way. I took rather a large chance and ordered this beautiful spotty wool and wool edge binding from 'My Fabrics'. It cost way more than I would normally consider spending, but after my recent experience with their fabrics for my jacket sample (VIEW C) I couldn't resist. Luckily my gamble paid off and I am ecstatic with the results. I ordered 2m of the spotty and with some creative cutting I managed to squeeze this and a Linden out of it with maybe enough scraps for some gloves. 6m of the binding was used up completely on both garments and I mean I had to stretch it onto the pockets in order to have enough, so some pretty economical usage going on!

 Now onto the making!

Because all of the edges have a bound finish I removed the hem allowance before cutting the fabric. I marked a new hem onto the pattern piece 3cm up from the original and cut along my new line. I eventually removed the seam allowance along the neck edge and centre fronts too, but not until I had sewn everything together, as I wanted to preserve most of my pattern to use again. I later taped the cut hem back together once my fabric was cut, as I like to re-use my PDF patterns as much as possible! Incidently, I left the sleeve length as is, as I wanted to preserve as much length as possible with no plan to add a cuff to this version. So, with all that in mind I cut my fabric out with the new shorter hemline.

I sewed the, sleeves, front and back together as per the pattern instructions and then trimmed the seam allowances down to half the size before finishing them with an overlocked stitch. You can finish with a zig-zag stitch or an overlocking stitch on your sewing machine if you do not have an overlocker.

The order in which I overlocked was to start by going over 'side b' of the gusset piece on either side. Then I overlocked from the hem up the front armhole edge and then from the sleeve hem up the back armhole edge overlocking both seams together.

The shoulder darts were also sewn as per the instructions, but then trimmed down to approx 0.75cm and overlocked.

I then trimmed the seam allowance away from the neck edge and centre fronts. Back tracking slightly to the fact that my centre front overlap was in fact too big, I would recommend trimming away 3cm from the centre front fastening edge (not the neck edge)in total rather than just the 1.5cm seam allowance.

This is what I originally trimmed...

This is what I trimmed off on top of that after unpicking my knitted binding with impossible to see machine stitches!!! Is it ever possible to make anything perfectly first off?

The wool binding I bought is a flat binding similar in type to fold over elastic.I have never worked with either the wool fabric or the binding before, so was creating some firsts as I went. I was definitely improvising through some of the steps, but here is how I applied the binding.

I first of all applied the back of the binding to the cardigan in the same way you would apply FOE to underwear, swimwear or vests. I started with the main edge (neckline, centre front and hem edge). I lay the fabric (right side up) on top of the binding with the fabric edge lining up with the centre of the binding and used a zig zag stitch to top stitch the fabric down. I worked my way from one of the back raglan seams round to the front round the hem and back up again. I left 0.5cm unsewn at the beginning, so that when I came close to finishing the round I took it off the machine and snipped enough length to complete and sewed a little 0.5cm seam that would be concealed under the folded binding. I folded the binding over the front of the jacket and topstitched in place with a straight stitch. All stitches sank right into this knit, so are very well hidden, which is good until you need to unpick them!!! I was concerned about the binding being too loose, so I pulled it slightly the whole time I was sewing to take away the slack. I think I pulled it a tad too tight, as even after a good press it doesn't lay flat like I imagined, but it's one of those things I guess. I always spend the longest on the knitted edges when I knit a garment, as it seems easy to get too loose or too tight and this seems no different!

I bound the sleeve ends in the same way and then moved onto the pockets.

I was going to attempt welt pockets, but thought that was asking for trouble so cut some large patch pockets instead. I actually much prefer these types of pockets for this version anyway, but was not into the idea of any topstitching. I remembered this amazing tutorial from Rosie Wednesdays blog about attaching patch pockets on the machine with almost no visible stitching and thought I would give that a go. I shall not go over the steps myself as she has done it so well, but needless to say, it worked! I bound my pockets before attaching. The only other extra was some topstitching at the top of the pocket (on the black binding only) because the binding is prone to messy ends and they needed taming.

So at this point the only thing left is to add buttons and buttonholes.  I stuck to my original pattern markings, but I was dreading this bit and I think that any doubts were totally justified. I definitely should have stabilised the buttonholes somehow. I'm thinking that if I put some fusing behind and did machine buttonholes they would have looked much better, but instead they look a bit like my toddler did them.

They remind me of an old womans mouth who has been a long term smoker, so has got lots of wrinkles. I have grown rather fond of them though and can't really change them.

So, this is how I used a knitted fabric with my new Freemantle coat pattern! I'm not sure now I've got to the end of this tutorial whether it's a good example or not as there were definite hitches along the way, but I think it gives a good general idea of where you can take it. Personally, this is my favourite version so far and is getting loads of wear (thank god, it cost enough).

Here are some more pictures of how I've been wearing it after the centre front modification. The red, jumper, plaid skirt and spotty cardigan is my current favourite outift. I don't know why, but I am strangely drawn to dressing a bit old lady, always have been. In fact a little bit old man too and I once bought an old mans three piece suit from a charity shop that I used to wear as a teenager. Glad there are no photo's!!!

 Here I am looking a bit Velma-esque (scooby doo)

In case you were curious about the Linden I also managed to squeeze out of my fabric then here it is...

I cut the front, back and sleeves only and bound everything with the wool binding and added a cute 'feature' pocket because I had enough materials to make one. This and the cardigan were supposed to go together as a kind of twin set, but it is far too warm and bulky to work. Individually however, they are a very welcome addition to my handmade wardrobe!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Freemantle coat - lining the coat with enclosed seams


I realised quite late on in proceedings that my Freemantle coat was quite a serious undertaking. The level of finish it requires is not for everyone, but by the time I had come to this conclusion it seemed too late to change it (well, in my head it did anyway). In a bid to satisfy the majority I have devised this method of making the lining look like a regular lining. I'm not saying that I've invented a method or that no-one's done this before, but this is how I did it without altering the existing pattern pieces.

All instructions from this point are referring to VIEW C (as pictured), but can be used for all views.

Cut your paper pattern pieces for VIEW C, but with the VIEW A neck line on the sleeves, fronts and back. This neckline will be cut away to VIEW C later.


Cutting plan - Lining
  • 2 x sleeves
  • 2 x fronts
  • 1 x back
  • 2 x pocket linings
Cutting plan - Main fabric
  • 2 x sleeves
  • 2 x fronts
  • 1 x back
  • 2 x pocket welts
  • 2 x pocket facings
  • 1 x collar
  • 2 x front facings
  • 1 x back neck facing

Cut the lining fabric first. There is no need for the collar 'feature' on the lining, so to cut down on the additional work you shall cut the neckline of VIEW A for this part. Whilst the pattern pieces are in place mark the tailors tacks on the sleeve edges and gusset extension. Also snip 0.5cm into the sleeve top to mark the beginning of the sewing lines of the dart and snip 0.5cm into the neck edge to mark the centre back.

Now cut the neckline away to VIEW C on the paper pattern pieces of the fronts, back and sleeves and proceed to cut all main fabric pieces as per the above cutting plan. Mark all tailors tacks and snip 0.5cm into the sleeve top to mark the beginning of the sewing lines of the dart. Also snip 0.5cm into the neck edge to mark the centre back of the coat back, collar and back neck facing.

Cut and fuse interfacing to the front facings, back neck facing and pocket welts.


Follow the instructions as provided with the pattern, but do not bind the edges of the pocket bag as no-one will see this. Continue to hand stitch the top pocket seam flat against the reverse side of the jacket front to stop it distorting the welt from the front. Use herringbone stitch for this as it is sturdy and can be done catching only very small amounts of fabric.


Make up the coat and lining as two independant shells using the pattern instructions as far as the sleeves.

Turn the main fabric shell inside out and with the lining shell the right way out slip the lining over the main fabric, slotting the main sleeves into the lining sleeves. 

Construct the cuffs and attach to the sleeve ends catching both the lining and main fabric as per the instructions. Finish as per the instructions with the bias binding.

Just to clarify, I did this step slightly differently. I attached the cuff to the main fabric shell only and topstitched the cuff seam to the main fabric sleeve from the front. I then slotted the lining over and slip stitched the lining in place on the sleeve end.You can do either way.


The lining needs to be anchored to the main outer coat to stop it from billowing, so with the coat layed down flat and the lining facing you, pull back the lining fronts to expose the front side seams. Pin the flat lining side seam allowance to the flat side seam allowance of the main fabric from the hem up to the underarm and finishing just before the collar. Machine the two seam allowances together about 0.5 cm (or a foot width) away from the original seam. Below is a wee daigram to help convey what I mean!

Pull the lining back over and pin both layers together along the neck edge and centre fronts.


Follow the main instructions for this part, catching both the main fabric and lining fabric in the seam.


As per the main pattern instructions.

Hopefully this all makes sense, but if not then give me a shout!

Fabric details for this sample are as follows:
  • Brown boiled wool knit (non-stretch) for main outer fabric from here.
  • Geometric wool knit for front panels from my fabrics, but no longer available.
  • Brown cotton ribbed fabric for cuffs from here.
  • Oatmeal brushed cotton fabric for underlining bought on eBay, but no longer available.

In my next post I will show you how I made this cardigan using my pattern and then maybe I'll get a little less Freemantle on you!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Freemantle coat - VIEW B up close!

I've been wondering whether or not I should go into details about the name of my newest pattern. At first I was not going to go into it, but why not? It is not without meaning and maybe you would be interested. It is named 'Freemantle', which is my maiden name and means cloak maker in ye olde English. When I was growing up and making clothes, I chose to interpret this as clothes maker and (in a silly way) felt that it was my destiny to sew for a living (which I did). Now I interpret it more truthfully as coat maker and thought it was a fitting name for a coat pattern. Ha, see I do have hidden depths really!

Right now to show you more of the workings of the coat! I think that it's important to go into more detail with this garment as there are so many really cool details that I find hard to explain accurately in the product description. The insides are my favourite bit and I am dying to show them off some more. This sample is also my favourite version (black and white version a close second).

First to answer a question that I have not been asked yet! Why underline it and not do a traditional lining?

Well, I played around with a loose lining and found that it billowed too much in this loose shape (even when anchored at the underarm). It was causing strange ripples and bulky shapes to the outside of the coat, so I decided to scrap that and line it in a way that made sense to me.

I have used brushed cotton for most of my underlining, as it is snuggly and warm. Catching on clothes isn't so much of an issue I don't find, because of the loose fit.

Bias binding is applied everywhere that is visible and then all seams are hand sewn to the underlining to keep the insides looking neat.

 I know that not everyone is a great lover of hand sewing, but my approach is to sew neat, but do fast and long rather than slow and tiny stitches. I have seen people hand sew in the past with the most minute little stitches, but honestly I'm not that festidious. I think working as a curtain maker has ruined me, as I used to have to hand sew everything apart from the heading tapes. As you can imagine, stitches got longer and longer, so when I am slip stitching something like the seams where they just need to be held down really, my stitches can be anything between 1cm and 1.5cm in length. Everyone is different, but that's my advice!

One hand stitch detail that I did take some care over was this exposed, snipped edge. There are two snips on each sleeve seam allowance, which don't quite get covered by the binding, so I have just bound these small areas by hand with a blanket stitch. It is barely noticeable and takes no time to do, but if someone did get really close to my coat then I know that I have nothing to be ashamed of ;-)

I guess whilst I'm riding this hand stitched train, I may as well mention the poppers. I did a small slipstith to outline the poppers on the coat front. This looks really nice (if subtle) and I am super please with it as a design detail. It also performs the function of holding all of the front layers together, which is an added bonus.

I used a chunky knitted ribbing for the cuffs on this coat which is very thick. Because of the thickness of the coat fabric and cuffs I decided to hand sew the binding over the top rather than do any machining, as I knew I wasn't going to achieve a finish I would be happy with on the machine. Sometimes it pays to take the slower option! I got my ribbing from here

One area I am really struggling to explain and photograph in a flattering light is the sleeve gusset extension. It is a gusset that is grown on to the front sleeve edge and wraps round to the back. It sounds way more complicated than it is and I provide detailed instructions for you to follow when sewing, but I cannot illustrate it very well as a 3D model. Here are some pictures for your reference anyway, but they are a really interesting feature, if a little strange and difficult to photograph!

Last  of all is the yummy seam detail around the collar of this version. I love how the colour blocking really shows this off, but I am also keen to see this as a block colour. Maybe in a grey or a black. I hope to make another one day, but maybe not just yet!

Here's a bit more detail about the fabrics I used...

For my main fabric I sourced a vintage length of unused camel hair fabric, which seemed to sit perfectly with some other scrappy pieces I had about the place. The camel hair is a bit itchy, so I used a wool/mohair blend for the collar piece and a cashmere/wool blend for the sleeves. All have a hairy texture and go well together I think. I used the cahmere/wool blend for the facings and pockets too as this is sooo soft. To be honest, the cashmere blend was intended for a block colour sample, but I made it too early on and didn't like the fit, so scrapped it and re-used what I could. Gutted!

The underlining is a combination of a striped brushed cotton and an oatmeal brushed cotton with black fleck. I didn't have enough of either to complete the job, but fortunately they look good together. The black bias binding was used on all samples, because it seemed to look good on them all and I bought a 50 metre roll for a tenner. I was determined to use this as often as possible!

The ribbing for the cuff is as previously detailed!

I hope that you have enjoyed taking a tour of the insides of my coat and I shall be talking about an alternative method of lining the coat with no exposed seams very soon. I cannot promise no hand sewing, just considerably less!!!!