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Crochet Winter Warmers

13 Feb

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Anyone residing in the UK for the past few months would be aware that it’s been, well, rather parky out. I won’t be the only one who should have spent much all of January and much of February, shrouded in blankets and refusing to leave the warm environs of my flat for any non-essential reason.

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However, the course of my life has never been sedentary. I was back in my seaside hometown of Southport during the cold snap, so I decided to hibernate at my Grandparents house – until cabin fever struck. I decided to take a stroll along the deserted beach, which gave me the perfect opportunity to play with the settings on my new camera.

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For those of you who know anything about the North West coast, you won’t be surprised to hear that the wind was whipping up in every direction which made the chilly temperatures feel even colder! Eventually, I retreated back into the town to seek retail therapy and hot chocolate. It was then that I discovered a gem of a place: the Yarn Fairy on Wesley Street.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It was inevitable of course, that an addicted crafter such as myself would succumb to the lure of independent boutique yarn shops and the prospect of lovely new crochet projects. As I was wearing my deliciously warm new winter coat, I decided to try and pick out some colours to create some cozy accessories.

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Unwittingly, I selected some yarns which perfectly matched the shades of the seaside, where I had taken my stroll and where my mind must have still been wandering. The yarn was from Rico studio, and was 50% acrylic, 50% wool, so I thought that would be a good choice. Both the blue and the cream yarns were variegated, and contained all sorts of different shades from my coat. Perfect!
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I’m not really a fan of crochet patterns – I’m much happier just setting off and discovering where the stitches take me. However, I had recently seen a tutorial for making a hat from brim to top, rather than the other way round – I decided to give that a go.

I began by making a loop in the pretty, blue yarn, which fitted snugly around my head, and then hooking a row of double crochets to get the hat started. Onto row 2, I began a row of treble crochets, doing a hooked treble stitch every 4 stitches. A hooked treble is where you push your crochet hook crosswise, around the post of the stitch below, rather than putting it through the top of the stitch below. I hope that makes sense! It is the same technique used when doing the basketweave stitch.
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After a few lines, I switched colours to the cream, but continued doing 3 trebles, 1 hooked treble for the first few rows -then as I wanted to reduce the stitches, I began doing a hooked stitch for every three, then for every 2 and so on, so that the raised columns were preserved, and the hat began to form into the correct shape. For every two rows I completed, I probably unravelled another, as I worked out how the hat should fit me.

I wanted slouchy, beret style to the hat, so I tried it on after every row or so, checking that I was progressing how I wanted. As I reached the top  of the hat, I got to a stage where each stitch was a hooked treble, and then for the next row, I began hooking two raised ridges together, to close up the hat at the top. Finally, once the hat was completed, I used a spare strand of blue yarn to make a simple bow at the top.

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Next, it was time to get started on the hand warmers. I have a track record with handwarmers, and have made a whole series of them for myself and others over the years (a few examples are below). They are a quick and easy make, which doesn’ use up too much yarn, and can be embellished in countless ways.

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Again, the easiest way to get a good fit for your handwarmers is to begin with a chain of around 34 stitches (depending on the dimensions of your hands and wrists), and to try on the glove after completing every row, to check they are fitting well. This time, I began with the cream yarn, and instead of producing ridges around all of the handwarmer, I just created two ridges, 3 stitches apart, which would run along the top of the item.

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When I reached the bottom of the thumb, I began to alternate rows backwards and forwards, leaving a gap. Once the gap was sufficient, I added a chain of 3 and then began doing circular rows again – this technique gave my glove a thumb hole.

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To match the design of the hat, I switched to blue yarn when I reached my knuckles, to give a blue border to the tops of the handwarmers. Once I had completed the glove to a desirable height, I then began building the rows around the thumb joint, using a selection of slip stitches, double crochets and treble crochets, to mould the shape. This is a little fiddly in explanation, but is very quick in reality!

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The big task then was to make an identical twin for the gloves! This is always easier said than done, but it’s manageable as long as you continue to check and compare the work as you go along.

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I”m really happy with my new creations, and especially like the silver flecks in the yarn that makes the items sparkle. My new makes came in handy last month, when I spent the weekend in Cologne, Germany. My trip coincided with a giant snowstorm, and I was grateful for my warm accessories whilst sightseeing in a blizzard!

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No-pattern Chevron Dress

26 May

I’m sure many of you were glued to the recent series of the Great British Sewing Bee. I was rooting for Chinelo since episode one, and was sorry that she didn’t win – although Heather really did deserve the win with that AMAZING couture gown. All three of the finalists were absolutely brilliant, I don’t know how I’ll cope until the next series.

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Anyway, in the semi final, contestants were tasked with copying a favourite item of clothing. Tamara’s yoga outfit was outstanding, and she rightly won ‘Garment of the Week’ for it.

I didn’t plan on doing anything quite so ambitious, but I wanted to recreate one of my favourite dresses.

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The navy blue birdie dress I am wearing in the above picture was given to me by Char, one of my besties, after she spied it in a local charity shop. I absolutely love this dress because it doesn’t crease, it’s really light, and it’s so versatile – I can wear it with leggings and heels; shorts and flip flops, or even use it as a nightie if I have an overnight stay. It doesn’t take up too much space when you are packing, and it’s really comfortable. I think originally it was quite a large dress size, but I like the way the extra fabric gathers when the ties are pulled around the waist.

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As regular readers will know, I purchased a few metres of a striking, green striped polyester on a recent trip to Abakhan with my Mum. This fabric is a little heavier than the material on the original dress, but it seems quite drapey, and it didn’t crease despite my efforts! I thought this would be perfect for this project.P1030114

However, before jumping ahead to the fabric, the first thing I needed to do was to make a pattern. Of course, what every dressmaker needs is a handy roll of flipchart paper! And no, I didn’t nick it from work before you ask – our recent chaotic office move at work meant that lots of surplus or damaged stationery items were being disposed of. One man’s trash is another’s treasure, as they say – the large A1 sheets are really handy for tracing templates.

The dress I am copying from is a simple design – two pieces of fabric, both of which are darted at the waist, and the front piece of fabric is also darted at the bust. The dress also has some simple capped sleeves. After watching the Sewing Bee, I decided to copy Heather’s technique for copying darts onto the pattern – I marked the darts on to the pattern, then folded the paper so that the darts were lying in the place that they would be on the final, stitched item.P1030076

I then traced the outline of the dress onto the folded sheet of paper, removed the fabric, and unfolded the darts, to give myself the paper template. I’ve kept the pattern piece, with construction notes, so that I can make this dress again.

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To give a bit of interest to the dress, I decided to cut the fabric on the bias, so that I had diagonal stripes. Hopefully, with some careful stitching, this should give me fantastic chevrons on the side seams. Once I had cut the first piece, I then used that as the template, rather than the paper, so that I could ensure the stripes were lined up exactly.

 

 

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I have also finally learned the lesson that putting time in before stitching saves you time after! The fabric was quite slippy, so, after stitching the darts, I basted the two pieces of the dress together, remembering to also slip the waist ties in at the correct points, so that the stripes matched up properly. That way, I knew when I put the material under the machine foot, that it would attach together correctly.

The original has sleeves and I planned to duplicate this feature, but when I tried it on (in the selfie below) I liked the way the chevrons looked on the shoulders and decided to dispense with sleeves.

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Another lesson I learned during this project was how to do a rolled hem. I decided to give it a go after working out that one of the included specialist feet on my sewing machine was a rolled hem foot – if I’ve got one, I may as well use it! It took a bit of practice to get right, but I’m happy with the result. To ensure it stitched neatly, I ironed the tiny hem allowance first, to make a crease in the fabric. This then fitted into the curled channel on the foot, so that the fabric was guided under the needle at the correct point. I used this on the armholes, as I was already happy with the look of the dress before hemming it, so using a rolled hem sealed the fabric using the least amount of material.

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When I tried the dress on, I noticed that the neckline gaped slightly – I solved the problem by making a small boxpleat in the centre, and stitching it by hand. It has removed the gaping, and has actually become a bit of a design feature!

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Et voila – my finished chevron dress. I’m really happy with the bright, vibrant look and think the fabric choice is really effective. I also like the way the stripes play against each other when the tabs are tied around the middle (made from some remnant strips of material).

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I’m delighted with how well the chevrons match up at the shoulders and down the sides, and I think the bias cut of the material really shows off the fabric’s drape well.

The dress isn’t an exact replica of the original, as the sleeves are missing and the length is longer, but I think I will find it as useful, versatile and wearable as the first. I will definitely be making more of this one!

 

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