I've got to ask...where on earth did 2011 go? I think I must have blinked at some point during the year and it disappeared! Luckily, this blog acts as a pretty comprehensive record of my activity, which has helped my reflective efforts. 

Firstly, a quick detour via the future. For 2012 I'm taking radical action by throwing out all the rules! Last year, I set myself very specific aims, but I don’t know what they achieved, other than making me feel bad for not satisfying them all. I’m going to totally wing it this year to see which method is ultimately more productive. A highly scientific experiment I'm sure you'll agree ;o)

What I do know is that I want to sew and knit as much as possible, whilst continuing to improve my skills. And I want to savour every minute of it. So there! 

Don’t get me wrong, 2011 has had some great highlights – especially
getting to meet some amazing bloggers in May and taking up knitting in October. I’ve really fallen head over heels with knitting and I’m proud of my first creations.

However, when I look back at my aims for 2011 and even my half-year roundup, I’m struck by how unbelievably naive I sound. Erm, gee, wouldn’t everyone like to find / make more time to sew?!?

But I have learned an important thing or two in the past year:

  • There’s no need to rush things! I’ve given myself a particularly hard time over not opening an Etsy shop, but really, what’s the hurry!?! I’d still like to do this one day, but I think it’s wiser to take the time to hone some killer skills and develop a unique idea.

I’m so excited to see where this new year takes me, so as I 'aimlessly' set sail into 2012, I’ll leave you with a selection of my good, my bad and my ugly sewing makes of 2011:

I think I had the most fun experimenting with detachable collars! You can see more peter pan collars here and more nautical collars here.

I did some selfless sewing - a top for a friend and some pillowcase dresses for girls living in poverty around the world.

And I managed to squeeze in some commissioned pieces - baby pinnies, a half pinny and an extravagant 'Parisian Princess' pinny!

But 2011 was definitely the year of the skirt for me! I went from never having made one, to making many: aubergine Ginger, western Ginger, self-drafted circle and the Crescent skirt.

Oh, and I loved the simple tops I made - a refashioned dress became my very first Pendrell blouse and I went crazy with three versions of the Sorbetto.

And finally, the bad and the ugly of 2011 had to be ALL of my attempted dresses - my 1940s Swing Dress turned out too big on the waist, my One Pattern, Seven Bloggers dress was rushed to meet the deadline and my Lonsdale was way too small in the bodice!

So here's to 2012 bringing me more luck with dresses! 

I'll see you on the other side folks...hope the New Year brings you all happiness, health and as much stitching time as your hearts desire!
To those who celebrate it, I hope you've had a jolly good Christmas, and I hope those who don't celebrate it have still enjoyed the holidays!

I've been a lucky girl again this year, having received some lovely making-related gifts. As an aside, it's tricky now that knitting's in my life as I can't just say sewing-related. Does anyone have a combined word / term for sewing and knitting, that's not crafting or making?

Admittedly this year I received less making-related gifts than usual, but that's only because I naughtily indulge myself with 'gifts' throughout the year! I can't complain though as I also received some delicious-smelling perfume, white slimline Converse trainers, good quality make-up, the cutest little bow bracelet and many more bits and bobs.

What was your favourite gift this year?
Rewind back to October and more specifically my first Crafty Christmas Club post of the year. My Christmas gift-making plans were predominantly of the sewing variety and I had pretty much discounted any knitting because I didn't think I'd be skilled enough in time. Ironically, unforeseen circumstances scuppered my sewing plans and instead, the gifts I have managed to complete have all been knitted!

Taking up knitting was one of the best things I did this year and I'm delighted (not in a big-headed way) at my own progress. I would love to tackle something more ambitious soon, but this is a good start, no?

I made this shrug for my mum using a Sirdar pattern and the MOST BEAUTIFUL yarn ever! It was pricey, but look at all the wonderful colours and the texture! Interestingly, this yarn came unravelled and I had to twist it into a ball before starting.

Another one of the snoods made world-famous by Karen. This one's for a friend and I made it using Sirdar's Big Softie yarn and this free pattern.

A sparkly scarf for another friend, using this lovely free pattern from ravelry. I love the graduated colours of this yarn and the interesting ribbed effect the pattern produces.

And finally, a gift for myself! This was made with the same pattern and yarn as the snood above, but I used moss stitch instead of stockinette. You can see my first ever snood here.

I did also experiment with a batch or two of edible gifts, but they were most definitely a fail. So maybe I can revisit that idea next year!

I can't believe it's just one more sleep until Christmas, hope you all have some excellent plans lined up!
I love reading blogs, it unearths all sorts of valuable information! Just today I stumbled upon independent sewing pattern company, Victory Patterns, thanks to a post by Lazy Stitching. Have you heard of them before?

Victory Patterns are created by Toronto designer and sewing teacher, Kristiann Boos, who launched her first six pattern this November.

I must say, they really look quite stunning. You can see the full range of patterns here, but my personal favourites are:


As far as I can tell Victory Patterns are only available as PDFs at the moment, but that certainly keeps buying costs down and eliminates P&P costs too.

I also spotted a great tutorial for a Smocked Honeycomb Skirt on Kristiann's blog. This is a technique I've never tried before, so I'm excited to give it a go sometime soon.

I look forward to trying out Victory Patterns (I'm torn between Ava and Chloe to begin with) and following the company's progress. If the patterns are anywhere near as good as Colette or Sewaholic, then us sewing folk are in for a treat methinks!
My Christmas has well and truly arrived over a week early, thanks to the delectable Dibs, aka my very own Santa!

First a bit of background. Have you ever really coveted something...I mean REALLY COVETED, to the point where it became an obsession? I've been obsessed and quite possibly possessed since June, when I saw these two lovely ladies sporting handmade dresses from the most brilliantly-kitsch, 1950s-esque lobster print fabric. Swoon!

Mikki from Mikkipedia 

With the help of both Mikki and Adrienne, I tracked down the fabric to Leeds market. Perfect, I thought! I have an awesome friend who lives in Leeds who was willing to check things out for me. But alas, it wasn't meant to be! She checked a few times, but the fabric that had stolen my heart was sold out.

Fast-forward to last month and I spotted the fabric again on Stevie's blog, taunting me! I left a desperate comment for Stevie and Dibs just happened to read it and got in touch. She knew exactly where to find the fabric and offered to get me some. What an angel! Especially seeing as she's experiencing a pretty tough pregnancy...thanks so much Dibs! This is just one of countless examples of how unbeatable the online sewing community is!

Anyway, I'll leave you with a smug shot of my very own kitsch yardage, which arrived in the post yesterday. All that remains now is to decide what to make with it...

Have you seen it yet, Karen's World Map of Snoods? It's such a genius idea and the perfect way to illustrate how the Karen-inspired snood has gone international!

And the best part for me? I'm featured in it, with some exclusive makes that I haven't even shared on here, no less. You should really pop on over and have a look at the snoods from far and wide...Karen's map is such fun!

On a more sombre note, I wanted to apologise for my recent radio silence. I've been away for the last 10 days, because my granddad being taken ill in Cyprus. Although I have miraculously managed to get my daily fix of most of my favourite blogs, my own sewing and knitting progress has totally stalled. I'm having to abandon some of my Christmas-gift-making, but there's always next year. For now, I'm just thankful my granddad's in a more stable condition than when I first flew out. I'm so grateful that I had the chance to go and support him and my family, we're now all hoping that he will continue to make good progress.

If you're Christmas-gift-making this year, I hope everything's under control!
Oh my goodness, I’m absolutely delighted to be this week’s Featured Seamstress on Coletterie! I can’t quite believe it to be honest, especially after seeing the calibre of the other featured seamstresses. My cheeks hurt from smiling!

If you fancy popping over to read my interview, you can find it here. It’s my Aubergine Ginger that earned me this esteemed spot…thank you Ginger!

Firstly, I want  to apologise if this blog is getting too knitting-heavy for some...I realise the irony considering what name I chose! In all honesty though, the lead up to Christmas is always so busy for me and it leaves very little time for sewing - so if I wasn't doing this eight-week knitting course, I think my blogging would be pretty sparse! In any case, as a reassurance to those who were wondering, I have many personal sewing plans for the near future...including some Christmas-gift-sewing along the way!

Anyway, onto business - it appears that in my excitement to share
my snood last week, I forgot to post about my actual knitting lessons! Ooops, what a show off!

I think we’ve learned everything that our little beginner brains can handle for now, so for the last two lessons (7 & 8) we will get to work on a project of our choice. I’ve seen a really smart circular scarf thing that I’m itching to start next week, but right now, I’m working on my third snood (the second was identical to the one you’ve already seen). I’m using the same pattern, but this time I’m going for a more dramatic effect with moss stitch. I blame you entirely for this obsession by the way Karen!

I’m pretty pleased with how it’s looking so far! And look at all the delicious yarns that arrived in the post the other day – ordered for a bargain from here

Also, I’ve done a round-up of the skills I’ve learned over the last six weeks, as they might be helpful for any other beginner knitters out there. I’ve linked to tutorials from Knitting Help where possible, because I found this website really helpful! I’m still perplexed as to why there is a continental and an English way of knitting, but just so you know, I’ve linked to the English tutorials because this is the way I’ve been taught.

Basic Skills

Cable Cast On - a good basic way to get any beginner project started.

Basic cast off - again an easy way for beginners to finish off projects.

More advanced patterns which need shaping will require you to decrease:

Decreasing looks quite neat!

Similar patterns may also require you to increase:

  • I’ve been taught to Bar Increase which works for both the start and end of your rows.
A bit of moss stitch, followed by stockinette increase, followed by stockinette decrease

Types of Stitches

Knit Stitch - there’s a long tutorial and a short tutorial for this.

Purl Stitch – again, there’s a long tutorial and a short tutorial.

Garter Stitch – this stitch is achieved by knitting every row or purling every row and looks like this:

Stocking / Stockinette Stitch – this is achieved by alternating between knitting and purling rows (knit one row, purl the next) and looks like this:

Ribbed Stitch - this is achieved by alternating between knitting two stitches (or however many a pattern asks you to) and purling the same or a different amount (again, the pattern will specify this). A key thing to remember is that when you're knitting stitches you need to bring your yarn to the back of your needle and when you're purling you need to bring the yarn to the front of the needle.

Moss / Seed Stitch - for this stitch you literally just alternate between knit and purl stitches. When you start a new row, you've got to make sure that your stitches are the opposite to the ones directly below. For example if the first stitch of the last row is a purl, you've got to start your new row with a knit stitch. Again, you need to remember to bring your yarn to the back of your needle on a knit stitch and to the front of the needle on a purl stitch.

In case you hadn't realised, I couldn't be enjoying learning knitting more! Like sewing, it's such a brilliantly creative skill to develop, but I also like the un-sewing-like freedom it provides...you can pretty much take it anywhere with you if you just ignore the weird looks! 

Anyway, I hope this helps some people or is at least of a little interest to others!
Having had very little time for sewing recently, I'm happy to have finally finished and photographed something, especially since it involved two sewing firsts in one – a refashion and a Sewaholic Pendrell Blouse!

Cinched in with a belt, I think it would look great tucked into something, but I have nothing that fits the bill at the moment...

I started hatching this plan back in September, when Lauren of Tea and Crumpets blogged about a great vintage-style dress from Primark. This dress looked so divine on Lauren, that I immediately rushed out to buy it and was super happy when I picked it up for a mere £2!!! I couldn't believe my luck, but to my devastation it turned out that I really don't have the stature to carry this wonderful dress off.

Not only does it swamp my frame, but it simultaneously dislikes my ample bosom!

Despite all this, I was determined not to waste such glorious fabric, so I decided to refashion it into my first ever Pendrell. I just love the poppy print and I wish you could touch the fabric for yourself, it's so silky and luxurious.

I started by cutting the dress up at the sleeves, bodice and skirt

I then cut out the main blouse pieces from the dress' skirt and the blouse sleeves from the plentiful dress sleeves

I didn’t have enough fabric to make the Pendrell sleeves double like the pattern recommended, so I had to hem them instead, but they still look great I think. My fabric constraints also meant that I couldn’t make matching bias binding, so I had to trim the neckline and armholes with plain black satin bias binding.

Some close ups of the sleeve detail

As expected, this Sewaholic pattern is really simple to follow and cleverly constructed. The princess seams were a little tricky to sew with slippery fabric and I found that the easiest way to finish them was to overlock them due to all the layers. I also shortened the pattern by 4.5 inches in total - I started by shortening the bodice by my usual 2 inches, but then took off another 2.5 inches from the bottom too! I know I'm short, but the pattern seemed super long to me...like more of a tunic than a blouse!

Rare winter sunshine...right in my eyes!

I don’t think it’s the most flattering blouse I own (maybe I could have taken in the princess seams a little more), but overall I’m really happy with the result and who doesn’t need a smart, yet roomy blouse in their wardrobe!?! Plus, I’m so pleased that the divine dress fabric didn’t go to waste!
Finally! After complaining in yesterday's post, the sun finally came out this morning allowing me to snap some pics of my very first ever knitting project – my snuggly new snood! As you all know, it started with Karen, spread around the blogsphere  and wrapped me up in its whirlwind!

It's made following free Guardian pattern and using 12mm needles (which I call comedy needles as I looked like a fool trying to use them at the beginning) and Sirdar Indie  in shade 156. It's such a soft and cosy yarn! Just a heads up as the pattern calls for 200g of wool, but I only needed to use 100g...so go figure...

Close up of my crazy hippie yarn - not at all my usual style, but I like it nonetheless!

My neat-ish seam done with a mattress stitch

As a beginner, I also found KnittingHelp.com invaluable – thank you Mela for sharing this link, as I'd never heard of it before!

Overall, I'm delighted with my first knitted item! It's not perfect by any means, but I'm planning more in solid colours and you know what they say about practise eh!?!

Fellow UK residents, and residents of other wintry parts of the world, are you feeling frustrated by the gloomy weather and lack of light? 

I'm absolutely itching to share my two latest finished projects with you – a delightful Pendrell Blouse  and a snug snood inspired by Karen – but there never seems to be good enough light for photographs! It's gloomy when I leave for work in the mornings and pitch black by the time I leave work. I'm so desperate that I've even considered nipping home at lunch time to snap a few, but it's been grey and raining all this week. Pathetic eh!?! 

So until I find some light to photograph my finished goodies for you, I'll leave you with some retail therapy I recently underwent to help lift my mood. None of them have arrived wait, but I can't wait to get my grubby little hands on them!

Oh, how I love the view on the left...the fabric is just divine!

I love the simple lines of this 30s pattern

This coat is so elegant...though I don't think I'll get round to making it this winter!

The yellow and navy views are my favourite, I can see them really dressing up a casual outfit!

I love the pleats and neckline of this pattern...oh and the bow detail of course!

How sexy is this low back!?! I also want the black patterned fabric it features!

I like how this looks like a two-piece, but is in fact a dress

I can see the orange version becoming a summer staple...aaah, come back summer!

How lovely are these 1950s rose prints?!?

I love swiss dot and this grey one is so delicate-looking

I have a 1960s-esque summer dress in mind for this beauty

So, is the gloomy weather affecting your blogging in any way? What are you doing to lift your spirits...not hoarding patterns and fabric like me I hope...