DIY, Interiors, Sewing

Sewing for Interiors

The reason my family clubbed together to get me an entry level sewing machine was because I’d murmered something about being interested in sewing some cushion covers and blinds for our new flat. 18 months later following serious procraftination, with a coat, a pair of jeans, a lined jacket, countless skirts and dresses, I finally got round to making the long-awaited cushion covers.

Our flat is neutral with white walls, wood floors and wooden sideboards. When we moved, we were on a budget, so most of our furniture was sourced from freecycle or was gifted to us from friends and family. All the furniture is neutral and it is on the minimal end of the scale. In an attempt to add some personality and creativity into the interiors I wanted some really bright colourful cushions, I took inspiration from Oliver Bonas, Anthropologie and found some inspiration on pinterest.

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After collecting inspiration, the starting point for this fabric was an old salwar kameez I had worn in India back in 2012. I picked it up from a supermarket, it wasn’t particulalry fancy, but it was 100% cotton. I loved the yellow colour with gold and orange thread woven through it.

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The fabric was quite narrow and would only be enough for a pair of small cushions. The small cushion fits well into our bucket chair, we picked up from a chairty shop, (which I have promised to upholster, so eyes peeled for a post soon). I finished the cushions with some pom pom trim because well, frankly, everything is better with a pom pom!

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To accompany, I wanted a pair of larger square cushions to go on the sofa. What took me so long to get this project started was finding the perfect fabric. However, as soon as I saw this Okina Hana, Graphical Pattern Quiliting Cotton from The Village Haberdashery, I knew this print from Rico Designs would compliment the yellow. Finally, I finished the cushions with some pre-cut piping from my local fabric shop, but this can be easily found anywhere, or you can easily make your own by sewing fabric around piping cord.

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I’m pleased with the burst of colour these cushions give to our netural colour scheme, it was such a satisfying project to make envelope cushions come together so easily. I love, love, love, this fabric from Rico Design. The project has spurred me to explore surface pattern design and in turn to make my own cushions from fabric that I have designed. Next up for interior sewing is making some velvet cushions, knitted cushions and a chunky knitted throw for our bedroom. So many projects are being brewed up at the moment.

Until next time,

Claire & Co.

XO

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DIY, Knitting

Making The Wool And The Gang Hotline Sweater

Following knitting my first ever jumper I graduated to the Wool and the Gang Hotline Sweater a Christmas present, which would test my skills, introduce the increase and decrease technique and present me with the challenge of working with a new type of yarn, mohair. Mohair comes from the hair of the Angora goat and the word mohair is derived from the Arabic mukhayyar (‘goat’s hair fabric’). I love the texture of the yarn, despite its tendency to malt it is light and soft. Wearing an item of clothing made from mohair makes you feels like you’re wrapped in a ball of cotton wool. From a style point of view, it reminds me of the oversized knits on the high street, just like this knitwear from Sezanne. I like the silhouette created from wearing slim fitted trousers, with a jumper tucked in using a French tuck.

Like all Wool and the Gang kits, everything you need to start your project is self-contained, it even comes in a paper bag, ideal for storing a work in progress. The kit comes with paper instructions, but critically for me, YouTube tutorials accompany each technique required for the pattern. These are presented in an easy to follow format, which you can watch and re-watch, over and over again, until you get it right.

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When working with mohair for the first time, it became apparent that it is much finer than any of the other yarns I had worked with previously. When I was completing my swatches to test the tension, I ended up knotting up the yarn as I was pulling my stitches too tight. The pattern calls for the reverse stocking stitch, you work it like a regular stocking stitch, but simply flip the front to the back and wear the reverse side on the outside. When working a reverse stocking stitch, you knit one row, followed by a pearl row. It took me some time to recognise each stitch type. When I picked up my project again, I did two rows of pearl by mistake and the pattern was disrupted, forcing me to undo a row of stitches. Soon it became easy to identify a knit row compared to a pearl row. However, it’s a good reminder that a swatch, not only helps you identify the tension, but also familiarises you with new techniques.

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After a shaky start, the jumper came together easily. A 2X1 rib is required for the the cuffs, hem and neck. The body of the jumper requires some shaping to fit the sleeves, which sounds more complicated than it is. I followed the YouTube videos on left and right learning decrease with ease.

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I made the medium size based on my measurements, which requires six balls of wool that come in the kit, but I ran out of wool for the neck. Honestly, I was not sure what happened because I diligently completed the swatch. Frustrated at the amount of time I had spent on the project already, I went to Wool and The Gang  to buy an extra ball of the take care mohair but it was out of stock, across the site. Desperate, I rang stockists, but no luck. In the end, I followed the #hotlinesweater on Instagram and found Jamie Knits who had jump completed a hotline sweater two weeks earlier in the same colour, but I guessed in a smaller size. I contacted her asking if she had any wool to sell, and as luck would have it, she had half a ball that she was happy to gift me. This was a real act of kindness, which meant I was able to complete my project.

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If I were to do this jumper again, I would size down, it is a little long on my arms, that said, I am still happy to wear it as the pattern has been designed to be oversized. I found the fitting part of knitting difficult to gauge. Despite using a swatch, there is much less precision than the fitting used in sewing, there is more room for the human error or perhaps that is the art of knitting. I’m assured by the more experienced knitters in the Knit and Natter group  I attend (which meets every 3rd thursday of the month at Gran T’s– all welcome) that these fitting issues will smooth out in time, so I’ll put it down to a lack of experience.

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This jumper took me the best part of six weeks to complete. It took a lot of my time and I’ll remember this jumper taking me through the January and February of this year. The therapeutic benefits of making, slowing down and making during winter are not new, but they are two topics I want to explore more. The glacial pace of knitting, (or at least my pace, when I’m just starting out) forced me to reframe my perspective on making, to make the making the main event. Enjoying being curled up under my mohair blanket, whilst working on the mohair jumper is as much a part of knitting as wearing your jumper and sharing it with the world is. The last page of the knitting instructions provides a space for your reflections on the project. At first, I thought this section simply set the tone of voice for the brand, but actually it gives a space to write what memories a jumper will hold, beyond the type of yarn it is formed from and what size needles you use to make it.

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Pattern: Wool and The Gang Hotline Sweater
Skill level; beginner
Time; 6 weeks
Size; M

All for now

Claire & Co.

XO

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Christmas, DIY

Making Christmas Decorations

Christmas has crept up and I wanted to share a few of my festive decorations I made this year. I think if you can make stuff that looks vaguely passable as a present, it can be easy to put unnecessary pressure on yourself and make presents for all your friends and family. Tempting as it is and as well meaning as the sentiment, for me, I chose to make just one present and add a few decorations to our collection, and look forward to adding to the collection in the years to come.

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Christmas starts to creep into the craft magazines early, which is handy if you are one of the hardcore makers making for all your friends and family because you really do need a headstart. With Love Sewing magazine, a christmas supplement popped up and although the styling wasn’t really to my taste, two patterns stood out at me and I gave them a go.

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The first were these fabric star decorations, they are a great project to use any leftover fabric and you can use any fabric, beading, sequins or trim to suit your style and you can even stuff them with your fabric scraps. At Christmas time our decorations are generally made from paper, evergreen branches that I’ve brought inside and I try to keep to the colours of white and gold with a bit of red. Honestly, I never imagined I’d have a colour theme for our Christmas tree, but I just find myself gravitating towards this style. Growing up at my parents we always had a really eclectic tree, with decorations my mum had collected over the years, things we had made and each decoration told a story.

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I’m trying to use everything in my fabric drawer, before buying any new fabric, so I used this gold sheer fabric that I got sent as a gift. Because the fabric was sheer, I lined it with some scraps of an old bedsheet I’d use for a toille and made a tie with a topstitching thread, so it would be a bit hardwearing. I’m really pleased with the result, I had enough of the gold fabric to make three in total, they came together very quickly and just need some patience when sewing the points of the corners. I’ve just finished making a velvet dress and I can see myself putting some of the scraps in with the decorations to make more of these stars for next year.

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The second project I took on, were these quilted stockings. I’m not a quilter and I’m not a fan of novelty quilting cottons, so instead I just cut one solid piece for the front and back and for the lining. I had bought this tartan fabric from hobby craft two years ago with the intention of making some stockings by hand…! With zero knowledge of sewing I put it off, but this year and with the help of a sewing machine and the pattern, they came together easily and I finished them with felt cuffs. In my opinion, Christmas stockings aren’t just for kids, and we have a tradition to wrap up small gifts to open first thing in the morning on Christmas Day, everything from socks to paperbacks.

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Finally I made some ribbon with fabric scraps left over from making a shirt for my husband and a velvet Eve Dress to wrap up presents. To make the ribbon, I cut one inch strips and I overlocked the edges to prevent them from fraying. They were inspired by Ditsy Tulips Bow’s and I used plain parcel tape to wrap gifts.

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At the start of December I made a needle felt robin, it’s a much more involved make. You can read all about how I made it here. Hopefully one of these makes gets you inspired to channel your inner Kirste Allsopp this year, but for now, wishing you happy holidays whatever you have planned. I’m looking forward to hibernating and getting stuck into some sewing in the calm between Christmas and New Year.

Happy Christmas

Claire

xo

 

 

 

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DIY, Knitting

Knitting Wool and The Gang Happy Daze Beanie

My ready to wear pom pom hat, which was four years old, began to look tired next to the winter coat I’d made and my newly knitted scarf. The Happy Daze Hat can come together in three hours, so if you’re looking for a quick knit, this is a great project to get your fix. The pattern offers three options, easy, beginner and intermediate. By this point I had two knitting projects under my belt, so always one for a challenge, I followed the intermediate instructions. I chose the Bronzed Olive Crazy Sexy Wool as I knew it would work perfectly with the lining of my wool coat.

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The intermediate kit requires inverted rib stitch, which as the name suggests is a simple 1 x 1 rib, but back to front, working the stitches from the back to the front. I tried to learn this stitch straight off with little success, so instead I broke it down into stages and creates swatches in each step.

Firstly I learnt how to pearl.

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Then a 1×1 stitch.

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Finnishing with an inverted rib stitch.

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Breaking it down into three stages made it simple and I had increased my stitch repitorie by 300%. Hoorah!

From here, the beanie came together soon enough, it requires a cable cast on, thankfully there’s a tutorial here to help you figure that out,  which after a bit of practise soon becomes second nature and creates a neat finish. From here, it’s just a case of knitting your rows, to the number outlined in the pattern. To finish off, keeping your knitting on the needles you thread your sewing needle with 50cm yarn end, back through your stitches following the knitting needle. This creates a drawstring and you pull your hat together. It’s magic! Next you sew the edges together, remembering it’s right side out, if you’re a newbie knitter and a sewer like me, this still feels foreign!

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Now it’s time for the pom pom. The Crazy Sexy Wool is thick yarn, so I would avoid a pom pom maker or the old school cardboard cut out method. Instead wrap around the fingers on your left hand , 40 times, then carefully slip the yarn off and secure in the centre with another piece of yarn and tie in a double knot. Trim around the edges to to reveal your pom pom. You can trim any stragglers to make it neat. And then you’re done, secure the pom pom by sewing in place.

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I stitched in the label at the back, great to emphasise the bragging rights that I made it myself.

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Now, not a cold day will pass without having something to be cheerful about as you can always shake your pompom! Happy Daze!

Happy Making.

All for now.

Claire & Wool and the Gang

xo

 

 

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Christmas, DIY, Workshop

Making a Needle Felt Robin @ The Makers Place Macclesfield

Following a trip to the Silk Musuem in Macceslfield in November, I discovered the newly opened Maker’s Place . The top floor of the musuem is dedicated to the workshops and studios of 8 local makers where visitors can go and watch the makers work, buy their work and even give the craft a go in the workshop space.

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I fell for the charm and character of Jo Gardiners needle felted animals, especially her needle felted border terrier. So when I saw a robin workshop advertised I thought it would be the perfect pre-christmas project to do with my mum to help us channel our inner Kirstie Allsop . Infact, needle felt was even featured on this years Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas, the Orangutan in the gift round was made from needle felt. Needle felt was new to me, but essentially you stab un-spun wool with barbed needles, so it felts togethers and you can create any shape, or in this case animals you like. The ‘stabbing’ was very theraputic and once you got the hang of it, quite meditative, so if you’re looking for a low impact and low cost craft with great results, I’d say give needle felting a stab.

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To start with we used some raw wool, which you can pick up from here or here. For the workshop, Jo had everything we needed and laid out for us, so we could get started straight away, including the barbed needles, awl, sewing needle, eyes and nose and finger protectors. Next we started to shape the body of the robin into a ball, by continually stabbing the wool and moving the wool so it would be shaped evenly.

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Next, using the same technique, we shaped the head of the robin. You can see that after a lot of stabbing the fibres felt together and become smooth.

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From here, we joined the head and body together, by adding more felt to around the neck of the robin, to hide the join. We used the same technique, stabbing the felt around the join, so the fibres all felt together.

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Next we created the wings, first by pulling the wool to create a tear drop shape, then shaping the wing, this time on a flat suface. We stabbed into polystyrene mats to prevent any damage to the table and which allowed your needle to go all the way through. You have to flip the felt every so often so it doesn’t felt together to the board. To shape the wing edge, you need to carefully stab around the edge to give the wing a smooth edge. We repeated the process for the other wing and the tail feather.

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Next, we attached the wings, by simply stabbing through the wings onto the body to felt together the wing and body fibres.

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From here, we used the coloured wool to create the breast and hairline of the robin. We used some more of the white wool for the belly.

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To add the eyes we used the awl to pierce a hole, it looks a little brutal for the poor robin! We used a tiny bit of glue to stick the eyes in the sockets and same for the beak. Jo had moulded the eyes and beak out of clay. It’s important to remember that animals eyes are on the sides of their heads, rather than face on, my poor robin looks a bit bozeyed as his eyes are a bit too close together.

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The final stage is to sew a ribbon on, so it can hang from the tree and hide the stitching with a bit more felt on top. And voila, Bobin the Robin is complete.

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The workshop lasted about 3 1/2 hours and the time flew by (excuse the pun) and everyone left with a completed robin. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of Jo guiding us, checking the shape was right throughout and for the delicate beady eyes and beak. My robin is now pride of place ontop of my christmas tree and I look forward to getting him out every year, knowing the amount of work that went into making him and reminding me of my morning at the Makers Place in Macceslfield.

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Jo Gardiner has a host of workshops in the new year, the polar bear and the hare really stood out to me, If you’re interested in giving this a go yourself I’d urge you to get signed up.

Happy felting.

Claire

xo

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