Starting An Aran Cable Knit Jumper

Over the last few years the only thing I have knitted is socks and I not even started a pair this year. A while back I found a jumper in a suitcase in the attic that I had knitted about 20 years ago which I had forgotten about. I’m amazed I ever had the patience to knit it. I can’t really remember knitting this but I do remember knitting a long cardigan with a simpler cable pattern.

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Cable Patterned Jumper

I wanted to challenge myself again and earlier this year I bookmarked this site selling vintage Aran patterns and I would keep going back to it. I didn’t get a pattern from this site in the end but I was in John Lewis and picked up this book of patterns, £7.95 for a good selection of Aran styles. 30 patterns in total for men and women. JL did have a single pattern for an aran cable roll neck jumper by Erika Knight but at £2.95 for the one pattern didn’t seem good value when you looked at the prices of the pattern books.


Once I had the pattern it was time to get the yarn. I spent ages on this. I was needing approx. 800gm of yarn.  I didn’t want to spend a fortune but neither did I want to buy too cheap. In my price range the Aran yarns I was looking at would have around 20 – 25% wool with the rest being acrylic. You can by large 400gm balls or Aran for about £11 with 20% wool but in the end after a lot of procrastinating about quality and colour I opted for a recycled yarn from Bergere De France which was £1.95 for 50gms. What swung it was that it was the same company as the pattern book and the fact 50% is recycled ‘other fibres’ with it also having 20% wool and 30% acrylic. Straight after I bought this on-line from Love Knitting I clicked on to a story on the Guardian all about how damaging acrylic fibres are to the environment……

In my planning I had also found a book in my local library all about Aran knitting. It spoke about the history and as gave details of a wide number of cable pattern as well as patterns for jumpers and cardigans.

Both the book and the pattern magazine pointed out home important it was to do a  tension square and the book also advised practicing the cable patterns separately. So I did both, I cheated on the tension square and just did an oblong . I needed to size down my needles by half a size.

The jumper I’m knitting is a bit made up. I’m taking the pattern from one but altering it to have normal sleeves rather than raglan and then instead of just a round neck, adding on a roll neck.

For the design of the cable I’m following this men’s jumper below. It has a honeycomb panel in the middle with a plait either side. It does  have another design at the side but I’m leaving this out and just having moss stitch. For the size the men’s small chest measurements will work for me and I’ll follow the length for the body  from women’s jumper further on in the book.


So far, so good. I’m half way up the front body. I’ve also ordered some more yarn as I’m not sure I’ll have enough. I had ordered 17 balls, 16 = 800gm and then decided on 1 extra but looking at what I have already knitted I’m thinking it’ll take 5 for each of the front and back, one for the roll neck which would only leave 3 for each sleeve. I’ve ordered another 2 and was able to check with Love Knitting that I would receive the same dye lot number.

The men’s jumper in size small requires 16 balls but I now realised that not all 50gm balls are equal. There is a handy chart in my pattern book which tells you which quality of yarn takes what size needles and how many metres are in the ball. My chosen yarn has 85mts where as other 50gm balls could have up to 120mts.

I can get a bit obsessed about how long something is going to take me to make. I do this with sewing and note out what parts will get sewn each evening and when I am likely to finish.  It’s taken me about 10 evenings of knitting for 90 mins to get half way up the front, if I go on  like this I think it’ll take about 2 1/2 months but then it’s already taking up all my free time….( I should be knitting not typing….). I even timed myself knitting a cable row, 12 minutes! 120 stitches. A normal row is taking about 5 minutes. A pattern repeat is 8 rows and I can just about do one repeat an evening.

Back to the pattern repeat, both the plait and the honeycomb are 8 rows with the cabling on row 3 and row 7. Luckily spending a lot of time planning this in my head I realised that having the two patterns working like this would make it much easier. I just need to have one row counter, otherwise I’d be sure to get muddled up.

Sewing seems to have gone out of the window. I do  have a few things ready to start. One being a new striped Renfrew for my daughter. The one I made earlier this year was from scraps and just a bit too short in the body and arms so I’ve bought the same fabric and will now make one that fits. I’ve already sized up the pattern I made but before I can start I need to sort out the tension on the overlocker which is putting me off.

I need to ease off on the manic knitting, I’m not sure it’ll be completed by Christmas but maybe in January. Note to self, if you want to knit a complicated jumper for winter start in July not October.



Turning The Unfinished Dress Into A Skirt

I decided to get this done quickly and out of the sewing room into the wardrobe. I took the unfinished dress I wrote about in my last post and just chopped off the bodice. I overlocked the raw edge and pressed about 1cm under and stitched down using a navy thread in the middle of the two rows of top stitching. You can hardly see the stitching. Then I added the buttonholes and jeans buttons.


button though denim skirt salvaged from an unfinished dress

Because this was meant to be a dress rather than a skirt the waistband is slightly loose but it is still wearable. Also as it sits slightly lower at the waist than the dress would the length of the skirt is slightly longer then I’d planned. If I were to make this skirt from scratch it would also probably have a shaped waistband.

It’s had it’s first wearing today, that’s why it looks a little bit creased in the photos. It’s really comfortable, I can ride my bike in it so I can see me getting a lot of wear out of it all though the year.

I am really pleased with the top stitching. Using two strands of standard thread in the needle has really worked for me and my temperamental machine.

Giving Up On A Project – McCalls M6696 In Denim

Last Autumn I took a cutting from the Sunday Times Style magazine of a MIH denim dress which I just fell in love with. I bought the fabric in the spring but it wasn’t until July when I got around to sewing it up.  I decided to make use of the McCalls M6696 shirt dress pattern using option D but with the short sleeves. This pattern has a definite waistband and I preferred this to the plaited belt on the MIH dress.  I made this dress with the full skirt last year.

mih denim dress

I altered the skirt pattern by adding in some flare and I lengthened the sleeve and took out some of the sleeve head fullness as I remembered from the first make that the sleeves had so much fullness they were a pig to put in.

mih denim dress model

MIH denim dress – what I was trying to aim for….


My first stumble came when I realised that I should have used the size 12 or even the 14 skirt pattern, but I had used the 10 as my bust corresponded with the 10 but I hadn’t  noticed my hips were 3″ bigger on the body than the measurements on the pattern envelope. I managed to get around this with the ease allowed in the hip measurement and using the smallest possible seam allowance. All seemed well.

I had got to the stage where all I needed to do was to stitch down the collar stand, sew on the front pockets and button hole and apply the jeans buttons. I always struggle with getting a good finish when finishing off the collar stand and with the thickness of the denim it was just about passable.

I fitted the dress and the bodice was just not right. The waist and bust fit OK but it is the area above the bust, it’s just too big and the neck opening too wide. So I calmly decided to call it a day with this dress before I wasted a load of jeans buttons.

I haven’t been doing well with my motivation to sew recently and every time I go into the sewing room I see this as a bit of a block which is in my way.

Where I went wrong here is that I think the fabric was too thick and I need to toile the bodice again, I had done it last year but there didn’t seem to be any major fitting problems on the first dress.

I need to take some positives from this…..
I learnt a new and much more successful way of topstitching.
I usually use the Gutermann extra strong thread but there is usually some tangling up in the bobbing and this time I just couldn’t get my second row of topstitching to look nice and I really wanted the twin needle look. In desperation I tried the method where you use two strands of standard thread in the needle and it worked much better than I had expected and looks just the same. So from now on I think this will be my preferred method.

I’m going to chop the bodice off this dress and turn it into a skirt. I think once I have done that I can get my enthusiasm back and start making plans for what I’d like to sew for the coming Autumn.

I would still like to make this dress but I think I’ll leave it for a while before attempting again. And once it is done I can go down the local park and style it like this fashion blogger who is wearing the real thing.🙂

Also any good tips on getting a good finish on collar stand would be much appreciated!

Making A Copy Of A Boden Tee

red stripe tee

When I was recently sorting though my fabrics I found I still had a piece of red and white stripe jersey left over from making a skater dress a couple of years ago. Just enough to make a tee shirt. Since I gave up the RTW Fast last September I have bought 3 long sleeve and one short sleeve Breton tees from Boden. I really like the fit of these as they are slightly relaxed and not too skinny.

So instead of reaching for my Sewaholic Renfrew pattern I thought I’d take a pattern from the short sleeve version.

I measured the original tee across the shoulders, bust, waist and hem, noting the depth of the armhole and the front and back neck scoops. To make sure I got the shape of the sleeve head and armhole correct I used wax paper and tracing wheel.

red striped tee pattern (1824 x 1368)

striped tee sleeve pattern (1824 x 1368)

Using wax paper and tracing wheel to get the shape of the sleeve head correct.


It’s a simple tee but made with methods I hadn’t used before. The back and front necklines are finished separately. The back has a 1cm wide non stretch herringbone tape and the front is finished with a 1cm self fabric binding. Once these are done the shoulder seams are then sewn together.

neck binding for stripy tee (1824 x 1368)

the front neckline with 1cm wide self fabric binding  – you can see where I am using the wonder tape to hold the fabric in position before sewing.


The body and sleeve hems are sewn with a twin needle. I hadn’t done this for a while as I find the results can be a bit hit and miss, this is why I like the Renfrew with the banded hems.

Before I started sewing this I read thought my copy of ‘The Colette Guide To Sewing Knits’ to pick up some tips. The book recommends using ‘Collins washaway wonder tape’ to stabilise areas before sewing. It is a bit like double sided sticky tape and you can sew through it without it gumming up your needle and it disappears at the first wash. I bought a roll of it on eBay.

I used it at both the front and back neck and the sleeve hems. It really helped and would recommend it.

I didn’t run this up on the overlocker like a would a normal tee. The shoulders needed sewing together really carefully to make sure the seams met perfectly at the neck edge and that the chevrons created at the shoulder seam with the stripes matched. So I used the stretch stitch on the machine and used the overlocker just for finishing the seams. I forgot how slow going and noisy the stretch stitch on a normal machine was!

shoulder seam

Accuracy required for the shoulder seams. Arrgh! just spotted an untrimmed thread at the neck edge.


The twin needle stitching for the hems didn’t give me as much trouble as I was expecting. I used the wonder tape on the sleeve hems but decided against it on the body hem as I thought I’d give it a go without wasting a metre of tape. It worked out fine.

Even though it’s just a tee I was really pleased with the results, it fits just like the RTW one and there is something about the pitch of the sleeves I really like.

Unfortunately this did take me weeks to make. I started towards the end of May. Seriously, I would pin the shoulders one evening, then a few days later tack the seams, then sew them an on an on for 6 weeks! I was going away with work for 10 days in June and thought I’d have it done in time but I just couldn’t get my act together. Then I got back and slumped in to a Brexit gloom made worse by being overloaded in the day job and coming home and instead of sewing having to get out the work laptop. But anyway, this week I tackled it and got the tee finished.

My next project is a denim dress I’ve been wanting to make for months, I just need to get back into the swing of things.🙂

Pauline Alice Carme Blouse Number 2

A couple of months ago I made my first Carme blouse using a Pauline Alice pattern. I made the mistake of not tracing the pattern correctly and ended up with a slightly distorted front body pattern and wondering why the pin-tucked yoke didn’t fit correctly. It’s still wearable but I was annoyed with myself for making a silly mistake. I had a second piece of fabric that I wanted to use for this style. Again it was a Rose and Hubble lightweight cotton, this time a grey bird print on a white background.

Carme blouse bird print

Pauline Alice Carme Blouse

Before I started I made sure the front pattern piece was correct and I also moved the position of the dart. On my first make I found it a bit high. To get a better position I did think I’d have to make a toile but I took an easy way by wearing the original blouse and then pinning the pattern to myself. I knew I needed to pinch out 4.5cm for the dart at the side seam so I pinned it lower with more of a slant up to the bust point.

pauline alice dart

I’ve highlighted the position of the darts on each of these blouses. You can see on the red blouse it is much too high for me.

I also lengthened the sleeves by 3cm, I find the original length barely long enough and at 5’3″ I’d say I would have shorter than average length arms.

For the construction the only thing I did differently this time was to flat fell the underarm seams. I realised with my first make that I didn’t like the look of the overlocked seam when wearing the sleeves rolled up.

It’s quite an easy garment to sew up but I seemed to drag it out longer than necessary. I slightly lost my mojo with this, mainly due to my work life encroaching on my time in the evenings. I need to get my creativity back!  But this evening I’m going to catch up with episode 2 of the Great British Sewing Bee.




Slim Leg Trousers Adapted From the Jeans Pattern


Last week I posted on how I altered my Jeans pattern to make a pair of smart trousers. Sewing up without the  yoke and contrast top stitching makes for an easier construction. I still had some challenging moments though.

slim leg trousers

In this photo the leg lengths look slightly different but I promise you that they are the same length.


I had sampled the welt pocket complete with pocket bag and it worked out fine but when it came to the real thing I cocked up! For some silly reason I cut the patch of fabric used to make the welts way too small and didn’t realise this until I had sewn them on and cut the pocket opening,  on both back pieces, gah! There was nothing else to do except set to work with the task light and unpicker. Luckily I’d interfaced the opening on the main body piece which gave it stability and finally I stitched the pocket opening closed with a zig-zag  and started again.

unpicking the welts

carefully unpicking the welts…..


welt pocket fixing

stitching the opening up like Frankenstein’s forehead. I had to make the welts bigger the second time to cover all the stitching holes.


Second time I had much more success but instead of a double welt I opted for a single welt. For making the welts I follow the same method as for a bound buttonhole – when having a double welt but a single welt was just the case of folding it differently. I also checked out the tutorial on the Thread Theory website for help with the pocket bag.

slim leg trousers from back

I chose not to put a button on my welts but next time I think I will do as the opening does pull downwards slightly, this is why you definitely need a self fabric facing inside.


I spent a while looking for suitable fabrics online. I was after chino type fabric but with stretch, I couldn’t find exactly what I was after, if anyone knows a source please pass on.

The fabric I used was from I chose a cotton satin stretch (97% cotton 3% spandex) which has a bit of a sheen and was slightly lighter than I anticipated. This was £12.95 per metre. There is quite a wide choice of fabric on this website but it’s not the cheapest and I find the £4.80 postage a bit steep. But since ordering I have received an e-mail for £8 off my next order if I spend £25. They also have a stretch twill which I got a sample of and it is heavier than the satin so this would be my choice if I were to make another pair – this could be the chino type fabric I was originally looking for.

Creating this pattern from the Jeans pattern has worked well and again with the shaped waistband I’m getting a really good fit with no gaping at the back. But I think I could add a little bit of width into the thighs.

front trouser open

I used a lightweight cotton gingham for the pocket bags and I bound the lower edge of the waistband with a contrast bias binding.


After years of not attempting to make trousers I’m really pleased with what I’m stitching up. I felt quite satisfied hanging these up in the wardrobe. The only issue is that I haven’t worn them yet, with cycling to work I’m finding that my trousers all have a horseshoe shaped faded saddle mark on the bottom, which I don’t mind too much on jeans but I wouldn’t want on these. I suppose the best thing would be to change into them when I get to work ….and I just need to be bothered to do that.

Is there anything that you have put off sewing but then found that with a bit of research and a lot of patience you got there in the end?🙂



Adjusting The Jeans Pattern Into Smart Trousers

I’ve been wanting to make some smart trousers for a while now, I bought Simplicity 1696 Perfect fit about 18 months ago. Every so often I take the pattern out then decided it all looks too complicated and put it back.

After I finished my black jeans I re-traced the pattern and was left with the pieced together and scribbled on original pattern. Instead of throwing it away I thought I’d have a go at changing it into a pair of smart trousers.

I started with the back pieces and trimmed the seam allowance from the lower edge of the yoke and the top edge of the main back piece.

pattern back 1 (1824 x 1368)

To join the two edges together I needed to cut and open the yoke in 3 places. This gave me 3 small darts which in total measured 2.2cm.

I turned this into 2 darts. The position of the welt pocket followed the line of the top of the original pocket position.

pattern back 2(1824 x 1368)

Then on to the front. All that needed doing here was to draw on the new pocket shaping. I started by adding back in the pocket corner then drawing on a slanted pocket opening, new shape pocket corner, pocket bag and a facing for the pocket opening. Then traced the new pieces off adding seam allowances.

pattern front (1824 x 1368)

Finally I made a mock up of the back welt pocket with the darts above it to make sure it was going to work.

test welt pocket (1824 x 1368)

Test welt pocket

I didn’t make pattern pieces for the welt pocket and bag and just cut the shapes when I needed them.

It was a really easy process to alter the pattern. I’ve now made up the trousers and will do a separate post on sewing up🙂