Best Makes of 2015

So since it’s New Year’s Eve, I thought I’d do the obvious thing of looking back over the last year and seeing what I’ve made and done. This was inspired in part by the Instragram #2015BestNine hashtag.

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I’ve made myself 14 garments, which isn’t really that many – I have felt like I haven’t had as much time for sewing as I would have liked.

I particularly like my BHL Victoria Blazer, and definitely feel smarter when I wear it instead of a cardigan.  I like my Merchant and Mills denim Dress Shirt, too.

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I made a few things with knits, for the first time this year: a Closet Case Files Sallie Maxi Dress; a Tilly and the Buttons Coco dress; and a Breton-style Deer and Doe Plantain Tee.

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I have also refashioned 7 things, so I’ve been a bit more productive than a first glance might imply!

My 3 favourite refashions were my ugly skirt to Grainline Scout tee (which I unfortunately shrank in the wash, boo!), my Refashioners Dear Creatures rip-off and, probably the one I’m most proud of, my ugly coat which I remade into a Freemantle Coat.

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I’ve made 6 non-clothes things, including my first (pusheen) and second amigurumi (a Minion), and my first scrapbook, for my Dad’s 65th Birthday.

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But my very favourite non-clothes thing (and probably favourite out of everything I’ve made) was the felt allotment I made for my friend’s daughter for Christmas 2 (which happens in January so this was made this year). This was one of those things that I saw on A Beautiful Mess and knew I had to make it, and then was super excited to see my friend’s daughter open it! I was almost too excited to wait until the present exchange, and wanted to open it as soon as I arrived for Christmas 2!

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This is the anniversary of this blog, too – I had an old one but transferred the content over and focused just on sewing and crafty things (I had previously written about food and books too), and I’ve introduced a couple of new regular posts – style inspiration and fashion history. I’ll continue with these I think, as they help me to cement my personal style and guide me what to make next! I’ve also reviewed some books, events and shops. You can see the archive of all these posts here.

Thank you to everyone who has read my blog this year and I hope you’ll come back in 2016. xx

Homemade Christmas Presents

Usually around this time of year (i.e. after Christmas) I start posting about all the homemade gifts I’ve made for people. But this year, for the first time in about 6 years, I haven’t made anyone a present. I found this year that the run-up to Christmas was a bit stressful and it went really quickly – I had only about 4 evenings and 2 weekend days off in the month running up to Christmas! So instead of posting this year’s makes, I thought I would round-up the things I’ve made in previous years. Maybe if I start having ideas now, by next year I’ll have made a couple of things!

I’ll list these from quickest to longest to make (roughly), so you’ll have an idea of what you can complete in time if, like me, you start too late!

You can easily, and quickly, make a bowl out of a vinyl record for someone, like I did with this one for my brother-in-law.

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Or another idea for a vinyl record is to make it into a clock.

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Tea cup candles are pretty and can be flavoured – I gave mine a chocolate smell! And they’re not as scary to make as you might think!

Tea Cup Candle

You can always make clothes for someone else (and not just for yourself!) as I did with this Grainline Scout Tee for a friend, out of Strawberry fabric – Strawberries are her favourite thing!

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A good alternative to clothes is an apron, which you can customise depending on the taste of the person you’re making it for – this one is cake themed for my baking friend.

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An easy gift for any new babies in your family or friendship group is to applique some baby grows. You could do flowers or trains or other animals, or whatever the kid is into (if they’re old enough to have interests).

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If you fancy a bit more sewing, you could make a tote bag for someone, using this tutorial, with their favourite thing on – in this case BBC’s Sherlock (who’s excited for New Year’s Day!?).

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Or, also requiring a bit more sewing, you can make some baby clothes.

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If you’re not into sewing, or if you fancy a non-sewn gift, you can make a scrapbook, like this one I made for my dad’s 60th birthday.

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If you know how to knit and know someone who likes lego, what better than this knitted lego brick doorstop (with an actual brick inside).

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Again for the kiddies, maybe for older ones than the baby grows, why not make a cushion or wall hanging with their favourite book or character on?

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Probably the first thing anyone makes when they learn to knit is a scarf, so why not knit one (or more) as gifts?

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If you’ve got a bit more sewing time, and an older kid than for the cushion or wall hanging, you can make a felt allotment or a (travel) matching game. This both take a while because there’s lots of bits to make (and lots of squares to sew for the matching game!), but you can make then as complicated as you like or have time for.

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Finally, if you have lots of knitting time (in front of a boxset, perhaps?!), then you could make a rug like this one, which was based on a cushion pattern).

Round, stripy rug

Do you make Christmas presents for people? If so, how early do you start and what have been your favourite makes?

Knitting and Stitching Show

The weekend before last I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace, with my sister. We kind of decided to go on a bit of a whim – well quite last minute, which is unusual for us as I am quite lazy and like to not have plans on the weekend and my sister has 2 children, so spontaneously going out for the day alone isn’t always possible!

Shamefully although I live in Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace is a 10-minute train ride away or a 20-minute bus ride away, I’d never been before! I had no idea you can see canary wharf from the top of that hill! It wasn’t a super clear day when we arrived, but you could still make out the gherkin, the shard and canary wharf!

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We’d been to another Knitting and Stitching show a couple of years ago at Olympia and I didn’t really realise Alexandra Palace would be even bigger! Even though we arrived at 11 (with the doors opening at 10), the place was already absolutely heaving! I found it a bit much to be honest and I’m not sure I’d go again. It was really difficult to get anywhere near any of the fabric stalls (of which there weren’t a huge number aimed at dress-making as opposed to quilting) and so I ended up not coming away with much even though I’d gone in with quite a long shopping list. I had wanted to get some fabric to finally make my Colette Cooper Bag (which I’ve been meaning to make for about a year!) and some fabric to make a Colette Albion Coat which will basically be a rip off of this coat I pinned ages ago:

Seasaltcornwall coatI think I’ll actually order fabric for both these makes online, though, as I’m still a relative noob with knowing what kind of fabric is what so it seems like I’m more likely to get the right kind of fabric if I can choose it knowing what it is and what it’s properties are according to a website. Any particular favourites for heavy weight bag fabric or waterproof coat fabric?

The one thing I did manage to buy was some new lining fabric for a coat refashion I’m now part-way through – I’m re-making the slightly horrible coat I bought from the Fara Workshop into something more wearable – and less holey!

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Ooh, mustard yellow – something new and different for me! It was from Doughty’s and I might check out their website as this cotton was only £4 per metre but it softer than you usually get for that price.

I also got some matching thread and a thread snipper:

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You can see the lining (and threads) with a swatch of the coat fabric – I think it’s going to look fab!

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The only other thing I managed to get was some wool with which to knit The Boyfriend a tank top:

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This was some end of line wool which was only £2 per ball and it’s really nice quality – maybe a little itchy, but since it’s a tank top, it wont really touch skin that much! I was just going to get 5 balls – as that’s how many was in each little pack – but the man convinced me to get an extra one just in case – I’d never find it again. Do you know of any good tank top patterns? I suspect I’ll have at least one ball left, so I’ll have to think of something else to do with it. Maybe a baby jumper for one of the kiddies in my life?

I did discover a couple of new-to-me pattern companies, so although I didn’t buy that much I did do some research for future possible makes! I’d not come across MIY Collection before – Wendy Ward, who designs the patterns, wrote The Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking so you may have heard of her from that. I don’t think I’m in love with any of the patterns, but her focus on teaching absolute beginners to sew has got to be a good thing – the more the merrier!

I also discovered Sew Me Something, who are based in Stratford Upon Avon. They are a workshop and pattern company with a (I assume) growing number of patterns, all named after Shakespeare’s heroines. I quite like the Kate Dress and the Imogen Top and it’s a stroke of genius to name their Portia Trousers after one of the ‘breeches roles‘. I’m a bit annoyed with them, though, because in my vague daydreams I imagined myself one day making patterns (which I probably will never do, but you have to consider these things anyway!) and I thought I would name them after Shakespeare’s characters because I love Shakespeare. But they’re beaten me to it so it would look like I was copying….in this mythical future where I have the skills to pattern-draft!

One of the greatest things I discovered was Loopy Mango. It’s a US based company that makes knitting kits with GIANT WOOL and GIANT NEEDLES, and super cute branding, in my opinion.

Loopy Mango blanket(image source)

I love the fluoro pink!

Loopy Mango needles(image source)

Did you go to the Knitting and Stitching Show? Did you buy lots of things or, like me, get overwhelmed by the number of people and the sheer number of stalls? Did you make any new discoveries?

Book: Learn to Knit, Love to Knit

Jacket

I’ve had this book for quite a while – over a year I think. I was planning to write a review of it and post my first make from it in the same week, but I cast on a jumper in January (in black wool with gold sparkles, it’s amazing!) and it is nowhere near completion, so I thought I’d review the book anyway. And hopefully I’ll get my jumper finished for when it gets really cold!

Learn To Knit, Love To Knit, is a great book – I was drawn to it because there are several patterns in it that I like and will hopefully make one day. It’s written by Anna Wilkinson:

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I love her jumper in this photo, but sadly it’s not one of the ones in the book!

She goes through everything you need to know if you’re a beginner knitter, like what tools you’ll need,

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how to cast on,

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how to knit and purl,

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and how to cast off!

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There are some other techniques in the book and she outlines how to do common stitches, like moss stitch.

Now to the patterns! I quite like these wrist warmers (which feature on the cover), though if I’m brutally honest, I’m not sure if I would really wear them. But I do like to roll up my sleeves, then my wrists get cold (especially when working on a computer), so maybe these are actually just the thing!

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I like these bobble hats – they’re knitted on quite big needles (10mm) so I bet they knit up really quickly!

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This is the jumper I am currently knitting – I’ve realised that I like simple knits, even though I am also drawn to patterns with lacey bits and cabling and stuff, they’re not really my style.

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Speaking of cabling, though, these cardigans are quite cute!

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I weirdly also really like this lace top – the wool used looks like the softest thing in the world, and I would imagine you don’t need loads of it so could probably use something nice and expensive.

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I love, love, love this stripey jumper – it would be a great stash buster! I definitely have plans for one of these. I like the one with blue sleeves especially, but the colours used in both definitely work – how do people do that? I wouldn’t know where to start with picking complimentary colours!

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This American-style cardigan that looks like a jacket is also cute – and I love the way they photos are styled.

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I think what drew me to this book, aside from the great patterns, was the way the photos have been styled – it makes knitting your own clothes look stylish and not just something your granny would do! Do you have this book? Have you made anything from it? Or do you have suggestions of other great knitting books? Now the weather is getting colder, I feel like my knitting will take off again.

Me Made May 2015

Last year was my first year taking part in Me Made May (you can see my weekly round-up posts here: 1, 2, 3, 4) as it was the firs time since I started making my own clothes 2 years ago that I felt I had enough to make a pledge. I’m not sure I’ve massively added to my wardrobe since then as I had a big chunk of last year without really making much. I think I could improve on my pledge from last year, so here it is:

“I, Amelia, of sewingmachinations.wordpress.com pledge to wear at least one item of me-made clothing on at least 5 days of each week.”

I’m just going to document my progress on Instagram, so you can follow me there if you’re interested in how I get on. I’ll do a round-up post here at the end of the month.

I have the next week off work and am planning a real sewing binge, so hopefully I’ll add some basics that I really need. I’m planning to make a couple of pencil skirts, probably using the pattern from the second Great British Sewing Bee Book:

P1020609I’m also going to try sewing with knits for the first time – and I’m predicting I’ll discover I had no reason to be so scared! I’ve downloaded a couple of the free patterns available from the indies, The Hemlock Tee from Grainline Studio

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand the Plantain Tee from Deer and Doe:

Plantain TeeI’ve also had Tilly and the Buttons’ Coco pattern in my stash for a while, so hopefully I’ll manage to make that up.

Coco DressI’ve also got her Francoise Dress and have almost finished one version, with possible others to follow (though not for Me Made May!).

I’ve also got Colette Patterns’ Mabel skirt and Moneta Dress for when I’ve conquered knits – I’m thinking a couple of each would be really good wardrobe staples.

Mabel Skirt    Moneta Dress

I’m hoping to finish refashioning one or two of the things I have sitting on my refashion pile, especially the things I bought from the Fara Workshop.

I suspect I won’t get everything made in time for Me Made May! My eyes are bigger than my….sewing stomach (?). Definitely on my ‘very soon to make’ list is the amazing Ginger Jeans pattern from Closet Case Files. I have to add trousers/ jeans to my repertoire to have a really me made wardrobe as it is what I wear 90% of the time.

Ginger Jeans Pattern

I’m also planning to make a Holly jumpsuit or two – it seems like a good alternative to the Summer dress, especially given I cycle to work. I also have the Hazel pattern, to make some Summer dresses from, and I reckon I could pattern hack them and use the top of Hazel with the bottom of Holly.

Hazel Dress Holly Jumpsuit

Are you planning to join in with Me Made May? Are you panic-sewing in preparation?