sewing

Kitty Cave

Another post that’s been sitting in the drafts folder, this time due to the SD card reader slot on my laptop being an arse. However, after much fiddling, I was able to get the photos off it and now we’re in business!

Luke and I are currently fostering three 17 week old kittens and their mother, and they are quite shy, having been born in the wild. They are getting more used to us with time, but they still like to spend time in “safe” spots, and I had this idea that a cat cave would be a perfect idea. Somewhere cosy and enclosed, but where they can still see us and we can see them.

Originally, I was just planning on starting with a circle or oval shape and sewing darts into it to make it curve up, more like a basket shape. But then one night when I couldn’t sleep, I had this idea to do something more geometric. Why? I have no idea. But that’s what I decided to do. With Luke’s help (in the absence of a protractor or a set square or other helpful tools) I drew a pentagon with 5 centimetre sides on some card and then cut out 11 of them and taped them together into a prototype model cave, just to see if it would work.

It did! Excuse my cracked window sills, our house is ancient. Next, I tried a 10 centimetre pentagon, but it still seemed a wee bit too small, so I settled on 12 centimetres (it scales up quite quickly). I found thick felt (3mm) in Eurokangas, my local fabric chain store, for €8,95 a metre. I bought a whole metre, which was way too much but I wanted to have more in case of mistakes. I decided to hand sew the pentagons together, because I wanted them to sit nicely together and I thought a whip stitch would accomplish that. It took three nights of TV watching to sew them all together.

Tada! I’m really happy with how it turned out. It’s sturdy and cute, and pretty much exactly how I imagined it would be. But I know what you’re thinking – did the kittens use it? I had my doubts, because cats are well-known for ignoring anything purchased or made for them in favour of, say, boxes. Please note, the photos below were taken after a few days of use, because the kittens primarily come out at night time and the lighting is awful then. But then we had a sunny day and the warmth lured them out into the open!

But it quickly became apparent that the kitties hadn’t been taught to share…

The cave is now a battleground most nights, with one kitty triumphantly claiming it before the others descend and try to assert their dominance. The cave is very lightweight, so it’s amusing to watch them roll it around the room as they play, and often by the end of it, it’s squashed flat! It’s very easy to pop it open again though and so far, it’s retaining its shape fairly well. Sometimes in the morning we find a kitten sleeping on the squashed cave, so it doubles as a bed too I guess!

I think this is one of my most satisfying makes this year, and certainly the most used. I was planning on making more, but this little family will be moving on from us in November so I think they can just share this one until then.

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sewing, Uncategorized

Woodland Chic Hide Away

Moi, kaikille (Hi, everyone). It’s been a while, hey? Sometimes life gets in the way. Earlier this year, my mum passed away suddenly back home in Australia and we spent a stressful, heartbreaking three weeks there dealing with the aftermath of that. I miss her every day, and some days are easier to deal with than others.

I’ve actually had this post sitting in my drafts for a little while, waiting on photos. When Luke took the photos, I was feeling good – I felt like I looked good, it was the first time it had been cold enough to wear this dress and I was comfy and cosy. I wore it on a trip to Pori and Rauma with my dad and his wife on their recent visit to Turku, and Dad complimented it. I wore it to work after they left, and one of my friends asked where I bought it, and said it looked like something you could buy in a shop. I know some people think that’s not the greatest compliment, but I like it as it means it doesn’t look “home-made”. So, I was feeling pretty good about this make. That was, until I sat down to look at the photos. Instead of looking cute and stylish, I just look chubby. I’ve put on some weight this past year due to a medication and not being as careful with my diet, and it’s bothering me. But let’s step away from the pity party and talk about the details, because photos aside, I love this dress!

This was my first time sewing with an Ottobre pattern, and I was inspired by Katharina’s version. She was kind enough to buy me my own copy of the Ottobre issue (2/2017) containing the pattern, and mail it to me in Finland! Aren’t sewing friends lovely? ❤ For those that aren’t familiar, Ottobre is a Finnish pattern magazine released four times a year, usually two kids and two women (however they recently did a family version with some men’s patterns!) It’s the usual European deal – horrendous tracing and adding seam allowances, but the patterns are quite cool in my opinion and worth the effort. I already knew what fabric I would use – I’d been hoarding this sweatshirt knit from Spotlight in my stash for a couple of years, waiting for the perfect pattern, and this was it. I decided to add contrast red rib knit hem and cuffs, and line the hood in a red jersey, both bought locally from Kangaskapina.

I made size 44, with a small 4 cm full bicep adjustment using my preferred method that I always use now from Professor Pincushion.. I can see here that I should have done a swayback adjustment, though (and pressed the bottom hem better, eep). I left the length as it was – I think it’s supposed to be a tunic, but I’m just wearing it with tights in these photos. I plan to wear it with fleece leggings as the weather gets colder.

I had a little bit of trouble with the construction of the pockets – my version of the pattern was in German, and although I speak a little German and Google Translate generally does an okay job of German to English, I couldn’t get my head around how they went together. I emailed Katharina in the end, and she explained it to me beautifully and I was able to get them right first try. The pattern doesn’t have the hood lined, but I just used the same pattern piece as the lining and added extra seam allowance to allow for sewing them outer and the lining together. I sewed the whole thing on my overlocker, except the pockets as I thought that would be courting disaster.

I’ve worn it about five times in the last two weeks, and it’s so comfortable. The pockets are big enough for my wallet and phone, and the hood is nice and roomy. The fabric feels like nice quality – it’s quite thick and is soft and fluffy on the wrong side. However, I noticed it’s pilling a little on one hip from when I wore my leather satchel with it, so that’s a bummer.

Here’s my dad and I outside one of the colourful old wooden buildings of Rauma. I’ve already bought more fabric to make two more of these dresses, as I think they’re going to be an autumn/early winter staple for me!

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knitting, sewing, yarn

Cosy Feet (the less exciting sequel to Happy Feet)

Before Christmas, I stumbled across Tilly & The Buttons’ free snuggly slipper boots pattern, and thought they would make a great Christmas present for Luke. He’d been wanting slippers for some time, but a) he’s quite picky about what he wants in a slipper and b) he has large feet, so he had’t had much luck finding any. So while he was at work, I scurried off to the library and printed the pattern out, then went to Eurokangas and rummaged in their remnants bins for the right fabric. I bought some soft fleece, and then I found some leather with a thick fleece lining that I thought would be perfect for the soles. And then, I pondered how exactly to make them. Tilly’s pattern has a lining, but I dismissed that straight away because I figured it would come out every time you took your foot out of the slipper, and who wants that? I wanted to find a way to have them still look nice when cuffed, and be sturdy enough to hold their shape, AND have the fleece of the leather against the foot. I thought about interfacing the fleece, but decided on just doing a double layer of it, and basting them together to use as one piece. I cut separate pieces for the cuff, so the seams would be encased inside and not on display when cuffed, but then I didn’t use them at all because the boots were tall enough without the cuff (and I knew Luke would never bother cuffing them anyway, honestly).

I had to enlarge the pattern first – as I said, Luke has big feet and he wears a size 45 or 46 in European shoe sizing. So I got his gumboots and traced around those, and then enlarged the length of the sole piece by 4 cm (and then all the corresponding pieces that join to the sole!)

For the sole, I just cut one piece of the leather/fur fabric, and then I “shaved” the seam allowances to make it easier to sew. There was fur everywhere! It looked like I’d murdered a teddy bear. I assembled the boot as per Tilly’s instructions, minus the lining. I was worried my machine wouldn’t like sewing the leather/fur, but actually it went quite smoothly. Then I just folded the fabric twice on the top of the boot and topstitched it down. Bam, done!

In continuing the theme of keeping Luke’s feet warm, I decided to knit him a pair of socks. Handknitted woollen socks are a Big. Deal. here in Finland. Everyone has them, knitted for them by mothers, grandmothers, friends (or themselves) and they swear by them in winter to keep their feet warm inside their boots. I bought a knitting magazine from Novita, one of the bigger yarn/pattern retailers here, because they had a “my first sock” section, complete with diagrams and a link to a video. I wanted to use a Finnish pattern – I don’t know why, my life would have been much easier if I’d chosen an English pattern, especially since I’d never knitted a sock before, or used DPNs. Nevertheless, I painstakingly translated the pattern as best I could, and got to work.

The yarn came from Finnish sheep – I went to a sheep event with Luke’s supervisor and bought two skeins of yarn from one of the vendors there. It’s a wool/nylon blend designed for socks. It was a little greasy and smelled strongly of sheep, so they are very rustic socks!

They are not perfect – I’m sure any knitter would notice that the toe decreases are in the wrong spot on one sock. I got confused about which needle was which somehow, I don’t really know how. I also changed colours a row late on one of them, because I wasn’t paying attention. Still, Luke likes them, and he says they’re cosy! I already had to reinforce the toes though, because Luke feels like socks aren’t on his feet properly until he’s practically jabbing his toenails out of the ends. His store-bought socks always get holes in the toes very quickly!

I made my own “sock display” things out of a spare foam exercise mat that Luke had already cut up to reinforce his backpack (hence the little bit of blue you can see poking out of one sock), because I don’t want to pay 20 euro for a pair of sock-shaped pieces of plastic.

Any tips for sock knitting? I’ve heard about so many things, like toe-up, afterthought heels, and of the course the debate over magic loop versus DPNs. I’m slowly working on a pair of Kalajoki socks for myself, but I’d love to hear your favourite patterns as I want to increase my sock stash, stat. And I’m a bit shit at using it, but I’m whimsicalkitty over on Raverly if you want to add me there 🙂

 

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life lately, sewing

Return

Well, hello! Apparently I haven’t written a blog post since April 2017 – whaaat?! Not sure how that happened. Well, maybe I have some idea – not long after that, Luke and I packed up our lives in Auckland, New Zealand and made the move to Turku, Finland, via Australia to spend some time with loved ones. Even though this is my third overseas move, I still underestimate how long it takes to get your life back in order afterwards. I actually bought a sewing machine (secondhand) within a week of arriving in Turku, even though I’d sent my beloved Pfaff via sea mail, because I needed to do some pattern testing! But after that was done, I didn’t touch the machine for some time. We were busy doing all the official stuff one needs to do to become a proper resident of Finland, finding a place to live more permanently than the student housing sub-let we got for the summer, and exploring our new home.

We eventually found a gorgeous apartment in an old puutalo (wooden house) built in the late 1800s. I have a sewing nook on the top floor, in the same room as our bedroom. It’s less space than I had in Auckland, but I’m making it work. Besides, it’s so cute!

After three looong months, my Pfaff (and most of my fabric stash) arrived in Finland! The bad news was, one of the few plastic parts on the machine, the hand wheel, broke during transit. I tried gluing it back together (successfully!) but then discovered the plastic screw that holds the wheel in place had broken, leaving the threaded part inside the machine. In my search to find a new screw, I found a seller on eBay in Germany selling some parts in a bundle, including a new hand wheel! So I bought those, and also a new metal screw to replace the plastic one. The new wheel arrived, I went to put it on…and the belt around the wheel snapped. So. Much. Rage. So again, German eBay sellers were my friend, and I purchased a new belt. Finally, finally, I got it all put together and secured with a shiny new screw, and it works like a dream. So now I have two vintage machines, and for the first time, no modern one.

During surgery…

Good as new!

The agent who handled the rental of our apartment loves sewing too, and she has lent me an overlocker for the duration of my stay – such a lovely woman! Apparently it belongs to her daughter, who hasn’t used it in years. So I’m basically all set up now, and ready to roll. It’s not like I haven’t sewn anything in the past six months, though – I made a pair of curtains, hemmed another pair from IKEA, made a shirt for Luke and the piece de resistance – a pair of slippers for him for Christmas! I’ll do a separate blog post on those, because I’m kind of proud of them 😀 I also did a spot of embroidery, and I’ve been really digging knitting lately.

Curtains…

Shirt for Luke – Simplicity 1544 again

Slippers!

Mushroom embroidery

First knitted sock! The other is still on the needles…

I’d really like to blog more this year – I use instagram a lot (I’m kirstyteacat there if you want to follow me) but the chronology of the timelines is all kinds of fucked up nowadays, and besides, I like reading blogs, and hopefully some of you like reading mine.

I will leave you with some snapshots of my last 6 months, because I also enjoy seeing peeks of peoples’ lives outside of sewing, so maybe you will enjoy it too!

My first bike!

First Juhannus (Midsummer) bonfire

Housewarming party in our new flat, complete with pavlova!

Lots of berries!

Watching the squirrels outside my lounge room window.

SNOW!!

Someone else’s magnificent snowman.

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sewing

Wanted

My other recent successful make has been the Wanted tee by French pattern designer Vanessa Pouzet. I bought a pattern from her ages ago which I’ve never used (La Petite Robe, which I now see has an English version!), but in doing so I subscribed to her mailing list and when this slipped into my inbox, I was sold, even though it’s currently only in French. I love the square neckline! I have to say I think it looks better in person than it does in these photos, though.

I made it from a deliciously soft viscose knit remnant I got from Centrepoint Fabrics. It pressed really well, which was nice when doing all those sharp corners. I was a bit terrified of making this pattern, I must admit – my French is basically restricted to greetings and terms for baked goods, due to choosing Chinese over French when I entered high school. However, Google Translate does a very good job of translating it without many mistakes, and the diagrams that come with the pattern are very clear and easy to follow. The neckline is actually very easy to sew, to my surprise. I made a practice one in a fugly knit remnant I got from an op shop, and then felt confident enough to cut into the good stuff.

I made it in a size 46, and after measuring the sleeves against the Papercut Ensis tee, decided to do a little 2cm full bicept adjustment for a wee bit more ease in the arms. This knit is nice and stretchy, so that adjustment may not have been strictly necessary as it turns out. I chose the “retro” sleeve length, as the 3/4 length sleeve was nearly full length on me! It’s more modest than I was expecting, too – I was worried there might be more cleavage than I bargained for, but it’s just right in my opinion.

I think this will be a good staple pattern for me – I already bought some charcoal grey silk/merino knit to make another more sedate version to wear tucked into my skirts and with jeans as a basic layering piece, and a black and white Breton stripe to wear underneath a black jumpsuit I bought recently.

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sewing, Uncategorized

Chardon & Flamingoes

This outfit is one I whipped up in my week off work – I’m working towards something of a capsule wardrobe, which seems to be the hot thing of the minute! I really just want my wardrobe to be full of clothes I love where everything can work with everything else. I’ve owned a copy of the Deer & Doe Chardon skirt for a long time, and I finally got around to making it up. This was designed to be a wearable test version, but I actually really like it. It’s a designer cotton I got at Fabric-a-brac for a steal, and it’s a tiny plaid. I made version A of the skirt, without the belt loops.

This photo is from the previous failed photo shoot and I had to heighten the contrast but it shows off the pattern of the fabric quite well. It has a little coral/pink line running through the plaid which I quite like. It frays like a bitch though, so all the seams inside are serged, and the waist facings are turned under and handstitched into place. Instead of the recommended bias hem finish, I just turned it under twice and stitched it and it worked fine. I made a size 46, which is the largest size the pattern goes up to and the size I usually make for Deer & Doe patterns. It could stand to be a tiny bit snugger in the waist but I’m happy with it, I’d prefer this than it digging into me whenever I sit down. I used the length of the shortest size though, which is fairly standard for me.

Such an awkward photo, god. What am I even doing with that hand?! I used leftover pocketing from Luke’s jeans for the pockets. I love things with pockets.

I used a pink zip from my stash because it was the only zip that was the right length, and I liked the little peep of pink that matches the pink stripe running through the plaid. It was very easy to make this skirt, and I made it in a day. I already have fabric lined up for two more, including one that’s going to be repurposed from an old kimono! I’m excited.

The blouse is a pattern I’ve used before, from Bootstrap Patterns – I thought I had blogged about it, but apparently I only posted it to Instagram. Oops! It’s called Tunic with Long Back, and it’s become my go-to blouse pattern. Here is my previous version, in a $3 buy from Fabric-a-brac:

I wear it quite a bit with jeans, but I wanted something a bit flowy for my next one, and also without the hi-lo hem. I bought a gorgeous flamingo-print rayon voile from Hart’s Fabric earlier this year, and decided it was the perfect candidate for the next blouse. Sadly, it seems they’ve sold out – the fabric felt so soft and drapy, it’s honestly the nicest fabric I’ve ever touched! I need more rayon voile in my life. I don’t usually wear the blouse with the checked skirt as above, I have a navy blue midi skirt with pleats I bought from Uniqlo in Japan that suits it perfectly. Or, I wear it with jeans as pictured below:

I made bias binding from the same flamingo fabric to hem it, since it has quite a curve on the sides and it made it much easier to deal with. Making the binding was a bit time-consuming though as it was too floaty to put through my Clover bias binding maker and kept slipping everywhere, so I had to do it the old-fashioned way – pressing it in half and then pressing each half towards the middle. Worth it though! The blouse has facings, which tend to flip out in thi fabric, so I tacked them to the shoulder seams and catch-stitched them in a few strategic places. Any tips on how to secure them further would be great though!

Of course, I had to add one of my labels to this blouse, since I love it so much! I’ve worn it to an indie gig, to lunch with friends and out to dinner with the family – and I’ve got more planned too, in a kitty plaid and another rayon fabric I’ve had stashed!

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sewing

Puttin’ a bird on it

A while back, I bought a bird-print scuba fabric from Backstreet Bargains, with the vague intention of making the Deer & Doe Arum dress. Then I didn’t touch it for ages because in my mind it was a Good Fabric and we all know what happens with Good Fabrics – they sit in the stash because we’re too afraid we might ruin them! Luckily for me, I’m moving to Finland at the end of May and thus am facing the prospect of using it or losing it, as I can’t take all my fabric with me! This has spurred me into action, and am now digging gaily through my plastic tubs and making all the things.

However, this is not the Arum dress. I was worried that the style of sleeves of the Arum wouldn’t suit the scuba fabric, so I decided to pick a different pattern. Unable to decide, I asked my sewing peeps on Instagram to help me choose between a faux two-piece dress or a more simple knit dress, both from Bootstrap Patterns. The simpler dress won out, just barely. In all honesty I preferred the two-piece dress, but as someone wisely pointed out, I would get more wear from the simpler one. I’ve used Bootstrap Patterns before, and I’m a fan of being able to put my measurements in and get a good-fitting pattern, no muss, no fuss. Except, well, that’s not quite what happened this time.

Nothing about the line drawing of this pattern or the sample photo on the model indicated that this would be a tight, short dress – but that’s what I got. I feel like these photos do not adequately convey how short this dress is. Maybe I’m becoming a prude in my old age, but I don’t want to be pulling my dress down every few minutes or worrying about whether my undies are on display. No thanks! Luke tried to insist that it wasn’t that short – until I bent down to pat the neighbour’s cat and he said “Oh…I can see a good two thirds of your knickers.” Fantastic.

Too short!! As you can see from the above photo. By the way, that’s Zambesi, the neighbour’s very vocal cat that likes to poo in my vegetable garden -_-

So unfortunately, this dress will be stuffed in the op shop bag. Not everything can be a winner. It’s a shame, because it’s cute and fun and I love the print, but I’m not sacrificing comfort and practicality. Have you made anything disappointing lately? Commiserate with me!

PS: I have some definite winners to share with you in the coming week that I’m very happy with – my sewjo is at an all time high!

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