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Author Archives: Allison
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Hand sewing my quilt and catching up on the Great British Sewing Bee.The Bee is a sewing competition programme in which a bunch of people who know their way around a sewing machine are given challenges every week, and judged on their results. Each week a couple of them get sent home. Or maybe only one, seems like it varies. It’s only four programmes long so I guess they have to fudge things a bit. One contestant mysteriously disappeared halfway through the first programme, never to return.
Most people agree the best thing about the Bee is Patrick Grant, who is one of the judges. He is a British fashion entrepreneur, having bought and relaunched one of the oldest Savile Row houses (Norton & Sons) and done a bunch of other wonderful stuff. I’m laughing because I’ve just read on Wikipedia that he “clothes a number of notable public figures, including the Duke of Edinburgh, George W. Bush and Mumford & Sons“. What a motley crew!
Patrick is incredibly easy on the eye, superbly dressed (of course) and totally sweet and charming with it. I venture he has set many bosoms a-heaving around the country since being on the Bee.
But apart from gazing at dreamy Patrick, I find the Bee to be quite entertaining and informative, in fact it’s generally good enough to make up for the fact that it’s presented by that hideously boring daft posh bird Claudia Winkleman (who should be arrested for crimes to smokey eyeliner. And fringe.). I was quite shocked that the fabulous Tilly was knocked out early on, but that casualty aside, my three favourite contestants have all made it through to the final, which is tomorrow night. Lovely Ann, who is 81 (!! I had her pegged in her early 70′s, you go girl!) and has mad skills with a needle – I loved her story about making one of her first skirts out of a pair of her father’s old trousers. Sweet Sandra – who couldn’t adore all her photos of her three daughters growing up in matching dresses? (And I loved when she admitted making the first dress was a joy, the second a bit of work and the third one a proper chore.) And the loveable Lauren – youngest of the lot at 27, with her Scottish accent and breaking into tears every 30 minutes. They are all great, and I don’t know who I most want to see win. Maybe Lauren…. because it will probably do the most to encourage a new generation of sewers.
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I’ve decided to dive straight into my first big crochet project. I’ve done the scarf, the dishcloth, and some granny squares, but now I’m yearning for something “proper”. I felt like what I needed was something with lots and lots of stitches, something I could settle down and sink my hook into. I looked around and found this pattern by Attic 24 on Ravelry. It seems to be quite popular and the photos of everyone’s projects were really inspirational. Most inspirational of all is the way Lucy (Attic 24) writes about the pattern. Her enthusiasm is infectious. I’ve splurged a bit and I’m making this up in alpaca chunky wool. Not going to be cheap, but this is going to be a luxurious treat!
My first crochet project! After my introductory class at The Make Lounge and my first two Beginner’s Crochet class at Loop, I wanted to give a real project a go. I bought a bunch of crochet magazines and found this pattern by Sara Sinaguglia from Inside Crochet magazine. Basically hooking a load of rows – I could handle that!
I bought the yarn from Loop – they had the Rowan Cocoon which is the main part of the scarf – a really chunky, wooly yarn. And I found some gorgeous Madelinetosh merino DK in a petrol blue for the edging (better than pink for my complexion I think!).
The scarf was super easy to make – just double and triple crochet stitches. It went really quickly and I finished up in just two nights in front of the telly – so about 3-4 hours.
After my recent introduction class at The Make Lounge, I had been struggling a bit trying to get to grips with crochet on my own. I looked around for some classes which were a bit more in-depth, and while shopping for crochet supplies, I found a 3-class Beginners Crochet course at Loop in Islington. I was lucky to nap the last spot in a class starting on the 19th February. Loop is a lovely little knitting & crochet shop in Camden Passage – the sort of place that is lethal for your wallet. The staff there are really sweet and helpful, and though they don’t have the largest stock of wool in the world, they have a beautifully curated selection.
The classes at Loop are held in the basement where they have a nice room which comfortably seated the six students and our teacher Jemima. For our first class we learned the basics – making a slip stitch, holding the yarn, creating a foundation chain, and how to do double crochet and treble crochet stitches. We also did turning chains, and spent most of the class just trying to do neat, even rows of stitches. Not that simple when your left hand doesn’t want to comply, and you’re not used to counting stitches.
The great thing about crochet is that it’s pretty easy to pull out the stitches if you make a mistake! And luckily there was plenty of tea and biscuits available for sustenance.
At the end of the first class Jemima told us to practice, practice, practice. She promised that it would get easier. I took it pretty seriously and I practiced for at least half an hour every day, just randomly stitches rows of different types of stitches. And suddenly, my left hand seemed to know what I wanted it to do, and holding the hook started to feel more natural. Yippee!
A week later at our second class, we learned about increasing and decreasing stitches, doing slip stitches, and we started making a simple granny square. This was also our introduction to following crochet patterns, which at first seem to be a boggle of obscure abbreviations. Making a granny is really satisfying as you end up with something which looks complete in a relatively short period of time – it’s easy to see why they are an enduring crochet favourite.
By the end of the second class, I was feeling bold and decided to try a simple project of my own at home. I picked a simple narrow spiral scarf design that I found in a magazine, and managed to complete it in a couple of nights in front of the telly. Progress at last!
For our final class Jemima had encouraged us to bring in patterns that we were interested in doing, or questions we had about how to read patterns that we’d seen. I brought in my scarf and she showed me the proper way to finish up. I also brought a
granny square that I’d started at home to finish. We also learned how to work in a circle, talked a bit about tension, hook sizes, making swatches and how to read a crochet chart. Charts are awesome – one of the books I bought has them and they are genius for demystifying written pattern instructions. Apparently the use of charts for crochet is fairly new, and you need some heavy-duty software (like Illustrator) to create them. Hopefully some bright spark will devise a free/cheap app to create them soon, because I do find them dead useful.
I have already started a simple project from a book by Erika Knight called Crochet Workshop, as well as working on more granny squares, and planning my next six projects.
I’ve also joined Ravelry, which is a great social networking site for knitters and crocheters – you can keep notebooks for your stash, patterns, projects etc, and check out lots of patterns (including loads of free ones), and see what other people are making.
I can see that buying wool could easily become as addictive as buying embroidery threads! And I’m really loving doing the crochet, so how I’m going to fit all my embroidery, crochet, sewing, cross-stitch, quilting etc into my precious spare time is going to be a bit of a problem…….. ! Plus finding the time to write blog posts about it? I’m going to have to give up the day job, it’s clear.
With the interest in crafts and everything homemade reaching a fever pitch in the UK, there are about a zillion new magazines cropping up. I got a trial subscription (five issues for £5, can’t complain!) to Cloth magazine, which has been around for about a year now.
After two issues, I have to say it’s not for me. It’s less about sewing than it is about “customising” – sorry I mean UPCYCLING – your wardrobe. You know – add some lace to a tee shirt, add some military styling to a plain jacket, an “edgy” update to a denim shirt by adding some studs, customise your wellies, that kind of thing. It’s probably a great magazine for a fashion-obsessed teenager who is just dipping into the ideas of sewing and similar crafts. They do have a few “from scratch” type projects but they don’t have very detailed instructions.
Now I just have to figure out how to cancel my subscription before the trial runs out!
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