Monday, 31 March 2014

Coasting along with Free Motion Quilting

For about 3 weeks now (the same amount of time that I have had my new machine), our dinner time has become a routine of sitting at the table with all my quilting stuff pushed to one end of the table with the 3 of us squashed together eating at the other. 

Everyone is tripping over the sewing machine cord and bumping into the ironing board which is now permanently left set up next to the table.  It is creating chaos in our dining area - but I'm as happy as a lark.  

Once dinner is finished and the dishes done, I just move everything back to the centre of the table and I'm ready to go.

I have a few practice pieces of quilting on the go .. I do a dummy-run of the design that is in my head before I go anywhere near the quilt.  It's quite nerve wracking to put the first machine stitches into a quilt top that you have spent not only hours making, but hours designing in your head.

I thought that I would use these practice pieces to make something and the idea of drinks coasters came to me when Peter made me an after dinner cup of tea and put it on the table next to me .. and it left a white heat mark.

I simply traced around a coaster that I had, to make 4 squares - each with a bit of the design and, just like a mini quilt, made a binding and voila! drinks coasters.

I did try to do a fancy stitch around the edging but in the end, the binding gave the neatest finish.

Happy quilting,

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Friday, 28 March 2014

Top 5 Free Wrap Patterns

Now is the perfect time of the year to start thinking of those in between items of clothing that are perfect for if the weather is just starting to cool down or heat up.  A wrap, poncho or capelet are ideal items to thrown on or have handy and can be so much more versatile than a plain old jumper.  Here are our top 5 free patterns:

Summer Rose Capelet

This is one of our most popular patterns of all time!  It's a beautiful piece which is perfect for a more formal occasion and the knitted roses really add a lovely romantic feel.

We love this Wrap for its Downton Abbey styling and lovely detailing.  The mini cables and toggle button add a vintage feel that wouldn't look out of place having afternoon tea in the drawing room with Lady Edith.

A figure eight wrap using a vintage shell stitch and retro colours really makes this piece pop!  Wear it as a wrap or an infinity scarf and you'll be loving this versatile addition to your wardrobe.

Loom Knit Wrap

If you're the proud owner of a knitting loom then this Wrap, which we've made in the softest baby alpaca, is easy to make and a pleasure to wear.  In neutral tones with wooden toggle buttons, this piece can be finished in a weekend.

Asymmetrical Easy Crochet Poncho

We love anything with the word "Easy" in the title and this asymmetrical poncho, made entirely in Double Crochet and is perfect for beginners.  Throw it over jeans and a top for a super stylish look.

Happy Wrap Making!

Deb and Louise

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Monday, 24 March 2014

Adventures in Free Motion Quilting

Last  week, my fiance surprised me by buying the sewing machine of my dreams .. and then hiding it so I would find it unexpectedly.  He thought long and hard and thought he knew my routine when I come home from work.  So he hid the machine in our toilet room. However, I came home and changed the routine and he had to wait an hour and a half before his gift was discovered.  I know that the thought of finding a sewing machine in the littlest room in the house doesn't sound romantic but I thought it was one of the most beautiful things anyone has done for me.  Not only that, but he bought it on the Friday before a long weekend so it was Nirvana for me.

The machine he chose was a Pfaff Expression 150 Anniversary model.  I had been looking at one, decided it was the one I wanted and set about saving up for it.  I should have twigged when he asked which one I had chosen.  I thought he was interested.  He wasn't - which makes the gift all the more wonderful.  He has no interest in sewing or sewing machines.  He bought it to make me happy - and it does.

It's the perfect machine for quilters and comes with all the accessories you could possibly want.

I started off with some machine quilting on my 'Game of Thrones' quilt.

My practise piece.

The moment of truth .. 

... End result 

However, even though I was thrilled with the machine quilting results, I was very keen to try my hand at free motion quilting.   It was very tricky .. 

My first practise piece .. 

Much worse than I could have imagined - BUT! always remember to lower the presser foot.  

Things got much better once I remembered to do that.

Now, it's all systems go not only for piecing the quilts, but also for the actual quilting.  

Firstly though, someone deserves a cup of tea - in fact, this machine has earned Peter cups of tea for the rest of his life.

Happy quilting,

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Friday, 21 March 2014

Vintage Shell Wrap

The thing about buying yarn when it is on sale is that sometimes you can't get the colours you'd normally use.  When I was in Spotlight recently and came across some bargain priced Panda "Riverdale", the fact that it was only available in Chili Peppers, Lilac Quartz, Java and Silver (which actually translates to orange, lilac, brown and grey) did not deter me from picking up 20 balls and being thrilled that it only cost me $20.  Now you may or may not have noticed that I never, ever, ever make things in shades of brown and orange, but it was $20 after all and I just can't resist a bargain.  At the risk of having my new purchase languish in the yarn stash for eternity, I thought it best to get started on a project before my enthusiasm waned.

Given the somewhat Vintage colour scheme, and you'll notice I ended up leaving out the lilac - no matter how I tried I just couldn't get it to work for me, I thought I'd try a vintage crochet stitch and after a bit of experimentation decided on rows of shell stitch.  The pattern I used is available at Free Vintage Crochet and to be honest I had no idea what I was making when I started to crochet and it wasn't until I'd done quite a few rows that I thought it would make a wonderful figure 8 wrap/infinity scarf.

The pattern for the wrap is as follows:

Using yarn colour 1, Chain 266 stitches and follow the shell pattern as given at Free Vintage Crochet  - the video is very helpful if you get stuck.  My wrap was 44 shells long, however you can do more or less depending on your sizing.  44 chains fits my almost 13 year old petite daughter very well and this particular yarn, which is 60% cotton, 40% acrylic has little stretch.  Turn work to begin row 1.

Row 1.  Work row in yarn colour 1 as per vintage crochet pattern.

Row 2 and 3 .  Change to colour 2, work rows as per shell stitch pattern

Row 4 and 5.  Change to colour 3, work rows as per shell stitch pattern

Repeat colour pattern until work reaches desired width.  My wrap was a total of 16 rows

To sew:  Place work in a figure 8 pattern as shown and and sew ends together.

This was a really simple and quick project in the end and has ended up being a very versatile wardrobe addition.  I love it as a figure 8 wrap, but I can see it been worn often as an infinity scarf.

Happy crocheting


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Monday, 17 March 2014

Not Quite Faberge Embroidered Egg

It wasn't all that long ago (in fact it was only last year if I remember correctly) that I had a plan to learn how to embroider.  I bought a load of threads with a gift card I received and had them organised in an orderly fashion ready for use.  I did use them a little, but not nearly enough for my liking and so with Easter fast approaching I thought I'd take my little box of thready goodness and get to work  

My original plan was to cover a foam egg in felt which had been embroidered, however after trying to wrap an egg in felt, I decided that my choice of fabric was somewhat flawed, given felts lack of drape coupled with its thickness, so ended up using a piece of satin I had tucked away in my fabric stash.

I've used Cast-on Stitch for my roses, simply because it gives a beautiful 3D effect.  I'm still trying to establish how I manage  to twist the cast on - until further notice I'm blaming that on being left handed!  To finish I covered the egg with the fabric and glued the braided trim around the edge of the egg.

My plan is to make a bowl of these as a table centrepiece for our Easter lunch. At this stage I'm thankful that I've still got a few weeks to put it all together!

Happy Sewing


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Friday, 14 March 2014

Sew nice to be Quilting again ..

Game of Thrones??
Frustration is when you are desperate to quilt and have no sewing machine -  and no prospect of getting one in the foreseeable future (my wedding dress arrives tomorrow and that has taken every cent of any budget that we had).  I can't complain - the dress is a work of art and I'm sooo excited but any other purchase is going to have to wait. 

Only.. I feel the need to quilt.  I'm sure you understand that 'need'.  It can't wait and it's not logical.  I spent many hours watching quilting tutorials online (Craftsy have many and they are all great - some are free) but that's like waving chocolate in front of someone on a diet.  Kimberly Einmo is a wonderful Craftsy teacher and I was confident of achieving 'perfect points' after watching some of her classes.  

Luckily, a lovely teacher from work said I could borrow hers.  BINGO!  I was in action.  I have never really trusted my ability to put fabrics/colours together and was marvelling at the invention of Jelly Rolls and Layer Cakes.  They are not 'new' but they were not around when Deb and I first started quilting and I love them.

I chose Moda Fabrics 'Little Black Dress 2' and decided on a very traditional Jacobs Ladder design.  My son really liked how it was coming together.  He said it reminded him of 'Game of Thrones'.  I was a bit perplexed.  I couldn't see it but he insisted so .. Games of Thrones it is.

Each block consists of 5 .. 4 patch blocks and 4 half square triangle blocks.  The 4 patch blocks are made up of 2.5" squares and the half square triangles are 4 and seven eighths sqaure cut on the diagonal.  
Many of my 'points' are not perfect but I am happy to say that I am getting better.

The borrowed machine (whilst greatly appreciated)  is not equipped with anything that allows me to either free motion quilt or machine quilt so at this point in time, it's just quilt tops - and I couldn't be happier.

Happy quilting,

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Monday, 10 March 2014

Mohair: A study in kindness

Not long ago, I received a message through Facebook from a friend saying that she had some mohair yarn to give a way and would I be interested.  Of course I very promptly replied that I was and not soon afterwards I was collecting a bag of 20 balls of beautiful vintage mohair yarn in the most divine pale blue with shades of lilac.  Thank you Bronwyn!!

Now thinking that I would scour the Internet for patterns that used this particular yarn, I was lucky enough to come across a couple from that era I thought I'd share.

Firstly, let us consider this twisted braided feature  - less was not more it seems!

Secondly, this is my personal favourite and one that I like to call the "Frilled Neck Lizard".  I have always looked back on 80's fashion with a wonderful sense of nostalgia, but now I'm thinking that perhaps nostalgia should be replaced with horror!

Ultimately my first project with the mohair has been much less outrageous structured and I have chosen a simple scarf on large needles, mainly to see how it knitted.  I've been looking at the larger needles for a while now and have even been at a craft market where they were selling for $90.00 a pair.  It's a price I can't justify no matter which way I look at it, but I was more than happy to compromise on a pair of bamboo 20mm needles from Lincraft for the princely sum of $6.00.

Mohair isn't the easiest medium to knit with, but on the larger needles it's a dream.  I simply cast on 22 and then continued in stocking/stockinette stitch until I thought the ideal length had been reached.  I finished mine at approx 165cm/65 inches.  Cast off and weave in ends.

I'm loving this scarf, the bulk of the mohair is very much at ease with the larger stitches and it's going to be perfect when the weather is a little cooler (which isn't today, it's 32 degrees Celsius!!)

Happy Knitting


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Friday, 7 March 2014

Knitting in the round - Converting a standard pattern.

Autumn is finally here .. at long last ! and even though we still have a number of weeks of hot weather in front of us it still means that it's time to start thinking about winter knits.    I have some gorgeous pale blue mohair (I think it's mohair - the label is in Chinese so I can't be sure if it's a blend of some kind) that I would like to make into a vest for work.  Mohair is best in small doses and so I chose a small vest.

I love the look of a knitted singlet and didn't hesitate when I saw one by Jo Sharp a few years ago.  I made one for my daughter but she no longer has it so the time is right to make another.


Jo Sharp Knitted Singlet - Pattern PDF

It's small and will knit up quickly - especially as I am going to knit it in the round, rather than as 2 individual pieces which are then sewn together.  It is a great pattern to 'convert' to a garment knitted in the round.

First things first though.  Read the pattern through to determine the construction.   I am going to knit the small size as I want the vest to be quite tight fitting.  It would be a good idea to print off the PDF so you can compare the standard pattern to my 'knitting in the round' pattern.

The first step is straightforward.  I knit the front and the back at the same time.

Using size 5.00mm (USA 8) (or the size appropriate to the yarn you have chosen) - cast on 64 stitches (front), place a stitch marker, cast on a further 64 stitches (back), place a DIFFERENT COLOURED stitch marker and then join in the round being careful not twist the row.  The different coloured markers are important as they let you know whether you are working on the front or the back of your garment.  The markers are effectively your side seams and will determine where your increasing and decreasing will be.

Knit 8 rows in stocking stitch.  Knitting in the round means there are no purl rows you can just fly through the rows.  

Now comes the shaping.  
I always decrease 1 stitch before and 1 stitch after the stitch markers.  I find that it gives a very neat finish by having 2 neat stitches that sits between any increasing or decreasing. 

To decrease a row:  Knit 1 stitch, dec, knit to one stitch before the stitch marker, dec, knit 1, knit 1, dec, knit to 1 stitch before the marker, dec, Knit 1.

Using this method, decrease in the 9th row and then every 8th row 4 times.  
ie.  decrease in the 9th, 17th, 25th & 33rd row.

Increasing is exactly the same - one stitch in each side from the stitch markers.
Increase in the 43rd, 53rd, 63rd and 73rd row.
Continue until you have the desired length - pattern suggestion is 36 cm.

To shape the armholes.
Cast off 3 stitches,  knit to 3 stitches before the marker, cast off 3 stitches.  

At this point, we can't work circularly any more so we need to turn the work, and, for the first time with this project, knit on the wrong side.  
Cast off another 3 stitches, Purl to the end, cast off 3 stitches and turn the work again.  
Cast off 2 stitches at each end of this row 4 times.

Work 1 row without any shaping then dec 1 stitch at the beginning of the next 2 rows.

Place the first 4 stitches on a stitch holder or safety pin, cast off the stitches to the last 4 stitches, place these on a stitch holder as well.  These stitches are for the straps.  I like to incorporate the straps in the garment rather than sew them on later.

Repeat this process exactly for the back of the garment until you have only the 4 sets of 4 stitches. 

 Choose which side is the front and using the same sized DPN's pick up the first lot of 4 stitches and knit using the icord method (k4, do not turn, slide stitches to the right end of the needle and pull the yarn to tighten).  

Continue until the Icord is about 30cm long.  At this point, you can try the vest on to determine the exact length of the cord to ensure a snug fit.  I am very pedantic at this point - make sure that each strap has the same number of rows otherwise, the top will be a bit lop sided.  

Once you are happy with the straps. turn the garment inside out and join them to the remaining stitches on the back that are waiting using the 3 needle bind off method.  
This gives a very secure finish.

There you have it, one converted pattern and one mohair vest.

It is very straightforward  to use this method on larger, more advanced projects.  Just remember to read the pattern through from start to finish so there are no 'surprises' that crop up.  It can even be helpful to photocopy the pattern and then lay it out in front of you.

Below are two projects that I have knitted in the round using a standard pattern.

Nordic Sweater                                                                                     Aran Sweater

Happy Knitting,

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Monday, 3 March 2014

A tale of three projects...and counting

You may remember that a while ago I picked up some yarn from a charity shop for the princely sum of six dollars.  From that small bag of Moda Vera "Giselle" has so far come three different projects.  It's definitely been the yarn that keeps on giving!  The first project were some woven cutlery pouches for Christmas and the silvery highlights produced by "Giselle" were perfect on our festive table. 

Then I decided that a bit of silver was ideal for evening wear so I got out the knitting loom and made a Shimmery Shrug, which is a lovely wardrobe addition for when the evening just start to cool, but you still want to show of that expensive dress you've been waiting all season to wear.

It was after I had finished the shrug that I realised that four balls of this stuff goes a long, long way.  Determined to make the most of my bargain purchase though, I kept going and my latest project has been the "Sprouts Chain Shawlette" a free crochet pattern at Crochet Me.  Now I have to say from the outset that this yarn isn't ideal for this project.  It tends to snag on itself and so in the end I decided that the edging just wasn't going to work so left that off and still have a lovely shawlette - perfect for next time I'm at a function.

I can't tell you how much it pains me to tell you that out of the four original balls of yarn that I purchased, there are still two balls left.  How does that happen?  After three different projects I'm really wanting to put it at the bottom of the stash and not go near it for a while, but I'm afraid it's somehow multiplying or there is some sort of yarn fairy living in my craft room who's sneaking a new ball of yarn in every now and again when I'm not looking.  If there is a yarn fairy and she/he is reading this, can you please sneak in something different...pretty please!

Happy crocheting


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Drop Stitch Cowl

We were at a yarn market a couple of weeks ago and after speaking to some pretty fabulous yarn people all day long, I was struck with the...