Author Archives: Evie

The Kindling Mitts of Kindness

Still harping on about the Christmas Lurgy, even though we are racing towards the end of February, but it’s all relevant to this  story with another happy ending.

Whilst I’d been really sick the week before Christmas, it was Boxing Day when the flu took hold of The Husband.  Although born in Somerset, he’s a Northern Bloke by heritage, and made of stern, manly stuff.  For him to actually take to his bed when ill is unheard of in the 12 years we’ve been together.  For him to be in bed for nearly 4 days was like stepping into the Twilight Zone.

The kids were under the weather and I was still reeling from it, so we hunkered down and worked on getting well.  After a few days of this, though, Cabin Fever struck and my cherubs morphed into obnoxious little hellions!

By the evening they’d shredded even my last nerve and I’d sent them to bed, poured a stiff drink and turned to Instagram for solace.

Kristin (@kristinm100) had posted the most adorable pair of mittens, and they hadn’t been lost in the craziness of Instagrams algorithms!  I commented and asked if she could share the pattern name.

5 minutes later my inbox pinged and there was the pattern for the mitts.

I’ll admit to being rather overwhelmed by the kindness (although it’s not the first time Kristin has done something lovely for me.)   That little pattern, sent across the miles from Canada by the magic of the interwebs, from a woman I consider a friend, but whom I’ve never met, absolutely turned a truly shitty day into a positively magical one.

I instantly set to work to source the perfect yarn, and came up with Blacker Yarns British Classic DK knitting yarn in Grey.  This is a crisp, hardy yarn, in the fashion of Shetland wool.  The colour is the perfect grey, and whilst I wouldn’t knit this as a sweater next to my skin, for mitts it is cosy, and warm, and, I suspect, will take a bit of a beating!

Now obviously I had to wait for the yarn to arrive, it being the holidays and all, but that didn’t matter.

I was making friendship mitts.  Mitts that every time I wore them I would think of Kristin and her kindness.

I’ve got other mitts like this.  My lovely Goats of Inversnaid mitts were a yarn and pattern gift from my friend Christian (who lives considerably closer than Kristin).  And the hat that goes with them has been commandeered by Miss Button, who also gets to share the love.

It strikes me as nothing short of miraculous that such a simple act of kindness and friendship can result in bonds forged in the shared love of an age old craft.  Bonds that transcend age, race, background, education, socioeconomic status and good old fashioned geography.

That a few clicks of a keyboard can lift the spirits of someone thousands of miles away.

They say that random acts of kindness can change the world.  That you never know, if you do something small, how big an impact it can have on the recipient.

I have a pair of hand-knitted mittens that are testament to the veracity of that sentiment.

They are a happy blessing indeed.

Project notes

As an aside, this pattern is so beautifully written.  Every row is clearly detailed, so even an relatively inexperienced knitter could make these.  Those of us with a few yards of yarn under our belts can whip these up in no time, but still feel a happy sense of accomplishment.

Pattern: Kindling Mitts
Pattern cost: £3.90
Yarn:    Blacker Yarns British Classic DK
Colourway:  Grey
Purchased at: Blacker Yarns
Yarn cost:  £4.80

Stash Stories – February 2018 : A Year of Finished Projects

After spending so much time last year building a beautiful sewing room, clearing down my stash and cataloguing the remaining fabric, this year is all about Getting Things Done!

I have a pile of beautiful fabric, a smaller collection of beautiful yarn, and a surprising number of more crafty projects, all waiting to be turned into finished items.

This year I’d like to get at least 50% of stuff in my stash turned into garments, gifts or beautiful things for the home.

To do that I need to be a bit more organised, or it’s all going to be far too overwhelming.  And I do love a good plan!

The first thing I did was download the lovely, and free, Sewing Calendar from Sew DIY.

I’m sure you’ve already come across these planning pages, but if you haven’t, they’re just the prettiest, and simplest way, to get some order for your sewing plans for the coming year.

These have been cut out and pasted into my sewing notebook…a cheap, spiral bound artists sketchbook.  The thicker paper means you reduce the risk of bleed through if using coloured pens, and you can sketch, make notes and add swatches to your hearts content, without the restrictions of someone else’s ideas of what you need to note.

Next I made a list of outstanding knitting/crochet/craft plans.

It’s longer than I’d expected.

I’ve already added the current UFO, plus the dance wear that’s needed by the 18th March to the planner.

Next up….sheep.

I’ve had a tapestry cushion on the frame for forever now.  I’ve had the kit for at least a year….possibly even 2?  That’s not good.  Last year I only completed two squares.

Sheep are herd animals.

These lovely ladies don’t even stand next to each other.  I’m sure they’re lonely.  I need to crack on.

So every month this year I shall complete 1 square of the sheep tapestry, so that by the end of the year this one will be ready to turn into a cushion for my snuggler!    Already this month I’m half way through the third sheepy square!

So…it’s a start.

It would be way too ambitious to think I’ll get the whole of the stash cleared this year, but it would be really nice to halve it.

This month is time pressured as I’d like knitted mice and a crocheted pug for Easter gifts.  I also need to sew a new dance shirt for the wee boy and a dance outfit for me, as I’ve been roped into a dance competition!!!

Wish me luck!?


Embroidered Squirrels

Over Christmas I simply couldn’t have knitted or sewn to save my life.

The whole family was down with a flu bug, and whilst we all rallied for The Day long enough to open gifts, cook the delicious meal cooked by The Hubby, and sip a therapeutic glass of prosecco or 2 (or 3!), the rest of the holidays was spent doing some very serious lounging about and recuperating.

Thankfully, I’d recently purchased a delightful embroidery kit from Jenny Blair on Etsy.

I can’t even remember where I first stumbled across Jenny, but when I saw this design I was entranced.  The two squirrels that live at the bottom of our garden (whom we’ve named Fred and Ginger, of course!), are an endless source of glee, and this just seemed the perfect project for our home.

Jenny was a joy to purchase from.  The design is screen printed onto fabric, all ready to sew, but the colours she had on her site didn’t go with our decor.  A quick convo and she’d found the perfect fabric and we were good to go.

Shipping was so prompt and I had embroidery thread and a hoop in my stash.

So I was all ready to go when the lurgy hit, and a little quiet stitching was all I could muster.

This design in done in four simple, basic embroidery stitches and is easy to make up, even if you’re a beginner.

Once completed I just re-stretched the fabric in the hoop, secured with magic tape, and taped a circle of felt to the back, ready to hang.

It’s so sweet and I’m really pleased with the result.


Zauberball Socks

Just when you thought it was safe to peep over the parapet…here are more unblogged socks from last year.

I promise this is the last of the pairs I made for the hubby, but Miss Minx has agreed to pose for photos at the weekend if we can squeeze it in.  Her socks are much cuter!

However, these aren’t too shabby, if we squint and ignore the mismatching.  This was the last ball of sock yarn in my stash and I swear I’m only buying either plain or matching stripes going forwards.

Thankfully the colours in this yarn are so lovely all is forgiven.

The fact that it makes the most perfect stitches also helps!

It now feels rather odd not to be knitting socks.  Hubby had so many that over Christmas he went all Marie Kondo on his sock drawer.  It’s now only full of socks that spark joy.  Thankfully there are plenty, which leaves me free to knit other things.

So I’m swatching for a sweater for me.

And casting on these little beauties for Miss Minx for Easter.

If you’ve never come across Little Cotton Rabbits’ delightful animals before, go, check them out.  They are just beautiful!

Project notes

Pattern: Regia 4ply sock pattern
Pattern cost: Free
Yarn:    Zauberball
Colourway:  Not a clue!
Purchased at: Deep stash!
Yarn cost:  Who knows?  Who cares? 😉

 


His Simple (Christmas) Socks

Phew.  A New Year is upon us and I’m glad.  Christmas Chez Stitches was immensely quiet, mainly due to us all contracting flu (including the grandparents) and after opening gifts and eating the feast, we all retreated to our beds.

I didn’t even have the energy to knit, so spent the time between coughing and nursing everyone, curled up on the snuggler with George and some simple embroidery.  It’s been most therapeutic and I can’t wait to share with you soon.

However, first up is the only Christmas gift I made last year.  Another pair of His Simple Socks by Elizabeth Seidle.  I love this pattern so much.

This time, although I used the same 3 ply yarn as the last pair, I knitted on 2.75mm needles, and am so happy with the result.  The fabric is soft and elastic and just all round much nicer that before.

The colours are much more subdued too. But these are for Grandad, and he has more traditional taste than Hubs!

Although, to be honest, if he hadn’t liked them as much as he did, I think they’d have had a home here, subdued colours or no!

Project notes

Pattern: His Simple Socks by Elizabeth Seidle
Pattern cost:  £3.50
Yarn:    Bergere De France Goomy 50
Colourway:  Bleu
Purchased at: John Lewis, Liverpool
Yarn cost:  £4.50/ball

 


The Most Wonderful Socks of the Year

Oooooh it’s nearly Christmas.  And whilst I’ve all but avoided the madness of making lots of gifts, I have finished all the sock yarn in my stash. More on those later, because my treat to myself for achieving this was to, finally, knit the Mind the Gap yarn from Trailing Clouds over on Etsy.

I bought this yarn at the beginning of August, following a tip from my lovely friend, Julia, who is happy to enable all the stripy sock knitting Chez Stitches.  Within minutes of her text arriving with a link to the yarn, it had been ordered.  And it’s been sitting patiently in a drawer until all less exciting yarns had been converted into socks.

I haven’t been so patient about wanting to knit it. But, it was well worth the wait!

The yarn is just delicious.  Its 75% British Blue Faced Leicester, 25% Nylon.  Crisp enough to get really nice stitch definition, yet squooshy enough to feel lovely in the hand.  It’s not remotely splitty, and slips off the needles at just the right rate (I knitted these on KnitPro Symfonie DPNs).

The colours…..oh, the colours are deeply saturated and sublime, and represent each of the colours of the different lines on the London Underground. The name of the yarn is a reference to signage and announcements on the London Underground, which extoll you to “mind the gap” between the train and the platform, and therefore avoid untimely mutilation, or worse!

Thankfully, the yarn is dyed in such a way that you get perfectly matching stripes all the way through.  Joy!

This is the first project in a long time that I was sad to finish.  I really wished that Trailing Clouds did other, equally luscious, colourways, because I’d be sure to purchase more yarn from her then.

If you like a stripy sock then I cannot recommend this yarn highly enough.  It’s just wonderful.

Hubby is overjoyed that they’re finished (to be fair, I did make him wait!).  I’m trying to get him to save them till Christmas.  I’m not sure I’ll succeed!

And speaking of Christmas…this time next week it will all be over.  So I’m ducking out until the new year.  2017 has been a bear!  Whilst we have much to be grateful for, and many blessings to count as the year bimbles to it’s close, there have been trials and tribulations this year that I am glad are behind us.

So for the rest of the month I shall be spending family time, chilling out with my loved ones, and edging slowly into a new year that I am hopeful will be gentler and lacking in drama.

Let me take this opportunity, then, to wish you and yours a peaceful and joyful Christmas, and a new year filled with happy adventures and dreams come true.

I’ll see you there!

 

 

 


Sewn Magazine – Review

When I heard that Michelle from That Black Chic was launching a new sewing magazine, I was, as you can imagine, really quite thrilled.

The current offerings for sewing magazines really don’t hit the mark for me.

Threads is the gold standard as far as I’m concerned, but it’s demographic, in my opinion, trends towards a slightly more conservative sewer, and the techniques demonstrated, whilst interesting, are oftentimes ones I won’t use.  I think if you love reading about the techniques just for interest, or you love constructing slightly more artisan garments (think Marcy Tilton, then Threads is right up your street.

I’ll be honest that I’ve cancelled my subscription, as I simply don’t have the time to read them at the moment.  But, never say never, when life is a bit quieter, I’m happy to revisit that decision because Threads is full of content.

The British sewing magazines swing in quite another direction.  We have Simply Sewing, Love Sewing, Sew, Sew Now, and Sewing World.

Each of these is a monthly publication, that invariable hits the newsstand in a cellophane wrapper with at least one, but often two or three, free patterns.  Sometimes the patterns are Big 4, sometimes they are an “own brand” pattern.

All of these publications feel aimed at a younger market than I sit in.  They can also run to twee, although I find Love Sewing to be the least of these.  They also mix dressmaking with fabric crafts (stuffed unicorn, anyone), which isn’t really what I’m looking for.

So, as a white, middle-aged, middle class Mum, whose taste runs more Hobbs than Cath Kidston, I’m not really served by the current sewing magazine offering.

It seems that Michelle feels the same way, and decided to do something about it:

I felt they (the current sewing magazines) didn’t reflect the culturally diverse world that we live in today”

I found that an exciting and enticing proposition and decided to bite the bullet and order the first edition of her new magazine, Sewn.

It arrived last week and, over the weekend, I made a cuppa and curled up to be delighted.

First, the positives.  The main one being that the models in the magazine are predominately women of colour.  Even as a white women, I’m appalled at the lack of diversity in all mainstream magazines.  Not just colour, but size, age and style.  We are not all Victorias Secret Angels, and I need to see that diversity represented in my media.  It’s one of the reasons I love instagram.  I can curate what I see.  I can also vote with my wallet, which is why most magazines don’t make it into my shopping basket.

Secondly, the magazine is printed on thick, smooth paper, so it’s a nice tactile experience when reading it.  You can feel the quality.

Finally, there are no advertisements.

However, there are also some things, that for me, are negatives.

My copy of Selvedge magazine dropped on the mat on the same day.  It runs to 96 pages.  Sewn is 82.  It just feels a little light, but that’s OK as long as there is sufficient content. More on that later.

I appreciate that a proportion of Selvedge is advertising, but those advertisements actually have value for me.  Similarly Threads magazine carries advertising, and it’s useful to me as it allows me to identify products and resources to which otherwise that I might not have access.

Secondly, the look and feel of the magazine is somewhat fragmented.  Most mainstream magazines (in fact most mainstream media) has a clearly defined “look” which carries across the different articles.  Again, comparing with Selvedge, that publication is tightly edited and cohesive.

Sewn isn’t so tightly edited.  Most of the pictures are great, but the article about decorating cookies (insert raised eyebrow here), in particular, has really dark photos that aren’t that good at all.

Finally, I found the magazine lacking in the content that Michelle sets out to achieve, namely:

“that showcases excellence…in the world of sewing, fashion, DIY and art…that tests and stretches all boundaries in the sewing community”

The articles aren’t particularly in depth and the projects are either really quite simple, for example, sewing rick-rack trim around the hem of your jeans, or a bit “Becky Home-Ecky”.  I’m looking at you Felt Christmas Bulb Pillow and denim ‘necklace’.

All in all I was left feeling really quite disappointed in this edition.  Especially as at $14.99 for a single issue, this isn’t a cheap publication. For comparison, I buy Selvedge on subscription.  Thats £48.00 per 6 issues.  Sewn on subscription is $89.94 for 6 issues.

I know that Selvedge is an established publication with a higher budget and an editorial team, but it’s a premium product, which is what Michelle has set Sewn out to be.  This is something we seamstresses see a lot of in the indie pattern market.  We pay a higher price for a product that is sold as something different from the mainstream, that is beautifully packaged, and which we sometimes purchase because we want to support indie designers, thus ensuring the diversity in the market.  But sometimes the product doesn’t match the hype.  Colette’s problems with pattern drafting over the last year springs to mind.

It’s really obvious that Michelle has worked very hard to pull this together, and I absolutely applaud her for having the chutzpah to actually do something to fill a gap in the market (whilst holding down a job and family….never an easy task without throwing a magazine launch into the mix).  It’s a hell of an achievement and not one I could pull off any time soon, that’s for sure!

The price will also reflect the cost of low quantity printing and the lack of revenue from advertisers.

Finally I’m pretty confident, having had a copy in my hand, that I’m not the target market for Sewn, and I have no doubt at all that a different demographic will have a significantly different viewpoint. For me, it misses the mark, and, sadly, I won’t be buying it again.  However, I’m hoping that it’s a success with those it’s designed for, because, for sure, we need more voices celebrating our diversity.

But what about you? Have you seen Sewn?  What did you think?

 


Tiny Terrapin

For her birthday, we bought Miss Button a pack of bulky yarn, as she’d said she wanted to learn to knit.

I’m fairly sure I don’t need to tell you what happened to that yarn…..

Yep, I knitted it.

There are surprising few patterns out there for tweenagers that require bulky yarn.

Funny that!

But I came across this pattern for a shrug and set to.

It’s a lovely pattern and a quick and simple knit. I’ll admit it’s a tad roomy for Miss B at the moment, but that’s not a bad thing.  She’ll get lots and lots of wear out of it.  It’s a great throw-on for cooler days that don’t yet need a coat.  And, for a girl with a passion for all things flamingo, it’s just the perfect colour.

I altered the neckline so that there is a defined top and bottom to this shrug.

The yarn is squooshy and soft and reminds of that Minky fleece fabric.

Not something I’d want to wear, but a hot pink, squooshy, fleecy shrug is quite the thing when you’re 9 and 3/4s.

Project notes

Pattern: Tiny Terrapin by Sara Gresbach
Pattern cost:  $6.60
Yarn:    Rico Essentials Big
Colourway:  Neon Pink
Purchased at: And Sew What, Chorley
Yarn cost:  £3.79/ball

 


The socks of truth

As I’m working through my fabric stash, I’m also working through the yarn stash, although, thankfully, I have only a few skeins of sock yarn yet to knit. My friends are as generous with yarn as they are with fabric, and this ball was a gift from Linda last Christmas.

I was glad to get to this one, as it has obviously been sitting there for a while.  The colours are more subdued than I usually knit, but I really enjoyed the change!

I love the little pop of burnt orange, which lifts the blues and purples to another level.  I’m sure there’s a colour theory explanation for this, but I just find it a really pleasing colour combination.

The yarn is study and quite crisp in the hand. This concerned me whilst I was knitting them, fearing that they’d be uncomfortable for The Husband to wear.  But I’ve just checked with him and he assures me they are comfy, cosy and warm.  Which is pretty much what we’re looking for in a sock, right!?

They’re also machine washable, which is absolutely a must in my book.  I know the hand washable yarns are softer and totally wondrous, but socks in this house have a habit of sneaking into a shirts wash and meeting an untimely, felty end if they’re hand-wash only.

And also, joy of joys, the stripes match.  I have a pair of socks on the needles that are likely to be scrapped, because I just cannot any more with the mismatched stripes.

Project notes

Pattern: Regia 4 ply sock
Pattern cost:  Free
Yarn:    Zwerger Garn Opal
Colourway:  Moments of Truth
Purchased at: City Knits
Yarn cost:  Gift

 


Yarn Shop Day Socks

“Yarn Shop Day is an annual celebration that takes place in hundreds of yarn and haberdashery stores across the country. Pay a visit to your local participating shop on the day and take advantage of what’s on offer, ranging from free patterns, discounts and competitions to book signings, goody bags and workshops.”

Yarn Shop Day (YSD) was held this year on 6th May and shortly afterwards Instagram lit up with lovely examples of socks being knitted in the official YSD yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners.

It’s such a pretty stripe that I couldn’t resist, and immediately hunted down a ball for socks for The Hubby.

My enthusiasm didn’t stretch to getting them straight on the needles, but they’re done now and I’m very happy with them.  Funnily enough, so is The Hubs!  We all know how much that man adores a hand knitted, colourful stripe!

As a little aside, I was recently knitting socks in the car with the kids in the back.  Hubby was jovially bemoaning the fact that the socks were on the needles and not on his feet, when Miss Button piped up from the back that perhaps it was time he learned to knit his own socks so that mummy could knit other things.  She possibly had the sweater for her, that was also on the needles, in mind, but I hooted with laughter. 

She may also have had an extra treat that day…just sayin’!

I have to say that WYS make a really lovely sock yarn.  It’s soft but sturdy, with good stitch definition, and, having knit with it before, I can confirm that it washes and wears well too. I think that makes the WYS sock yarns are great value for money.  If your budget doesn’t stretch to some of the lovely artisan sock yarns out there, or, like me, you like to stick your socks in the washing machine and then over a radiator to dry (please don’t judge) then you can’t go wrong with WYS.

Also, they make stripy yarn with stripes that can be easily matched across a pair of socks.  I may have mentioned previously that this is a personal obsession bugbear preference of mine.

I’d definitely recommend this yarn!  City Knits still had stock last time I looked.

Project notes

Pattern: Regia 4 ply sock
Pattern cost:  Free
Yarn:    West Yorkshire Spinners Sock Yarn
Colourway:  Yarn Shop Day Sock Yarn – Limited Edition
Purchased at: City Knits
Yarn cost:  £7.20