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.




Curtains – Adding Interlining To Ready Mades

Since the beginning of June I’ve not had much chance to do much sewing of any kind. Work and just life in general have got in the way of my plans!

One job that I really wanted to get done was to decorate the dining room. There had been lots of thinking but very little action. But I’m glad to say it’s now finished apart from a bit of touching up the woodwork.

Finished interlined curtains

Finished interlined curtains

For the new curtains I’d found a fabric in John Lewis which I really liked, Seedhead in Citrine but when I totted up the cost of making a pair, just over 10mts of fabric at £20, 10mts of lining and 10mts of interlining plus heading tape I was looking at nearly £300.

I took a look at their ready made range and even though Citrine wasn’t available they had the same design in steel which I also liked. So I bought the biggest pair for £140 and planned to take them apart and add interlining.

Me and curtains go back a long way……. When I finished studying way back in the early 90’s I graduated in to a recession and couldn’t get a job in my chosen field. So I took myself off to the job centre in Liverpool near to where I was living at the time and saw an advert for an interior design shop looking for a sales assistant. The wages were terrible but it was a job! I used to serve the customers so I learnt how to work out meterage for curtains along with allowing for pattern matching then I would be upstairs in the workroom sewing up the orders. I did this for nearly 3 years before I got a break and found a technical job in a clothing firm.

And because of this I always make my own curtains from scratch so buying ready made was strange and then taking apart something you’ve just paid £140 didn’t feel right! But luckily it all went as planned.

I bought the interlining from Roomserve on e-Bay for £32.95 for 10mts. I think interlining curtains makes them really special, I just love the weight it gives them and the way they hang and it definitely does help with keeping the cold out in the winter.

I took the header tape off the top edges and then undid the hems. The hems were sewn with a blind hem stitch which if you pull the thread in the right direction it will just easily unravel. I did think I’d have to unpick one of the side seams to add the interlining but I thought I’d have a go at cutting the interlining to the right width and sliding it in.

laying out the interlining under the curtain before cutting to the correct width

laying out the interlining under the curtain before cutting to the correct width

It didn’t quite slide in as it took a bit of wrestling to get flat but I got there in the end. I was able to do this in the garden on the hottest day of the year a few weeks back and was able to stay out till 10pm hand stitching the hems. I also added a stitch every 6 inches up the side returns to keep the interlining in place.

hand stitching the hems after adding the interlining - just catch the stitches to the interlining so they don't show on the front

hand stitching the hems after adding the interlining – just catch the stitches to the interlining so they don’t show on the front

I then cut the curtains to the length I needed and re-applied the header tape. I cut the interlining to the exact length to avoid folding over and adding any unnecessary bulk.

The lining used in the ready made curtains was a polycotton and the 3″ pencil pleat tape was definitely budget. Even though I wouldn’t have bought that quality of lining or tape they were fine to re-use. I suppose it is what was needed to get these to retail at £140.

The whole job probably took me the same amount of time it would have done to start from scratch but I got the look I wanted for over £100 less.

So now these are out of the way I’m going to start on McCalls M6696 shirtwaister dress using the Hemingway Designs fabric I bought earlier this year. Then before long it’ll be time to start planning for Autum makes.

McCalls M6696 with Hemingway Designs fabric

McCalls M6696 with Hemingway Designs fabric



‘Sewing for Summer’ Plan – Starting With A Couple Of Easy Tees

This year is really speeding along and summer is practically here. I have so much I’d like to make but not enough time. When I should be working I get out my notepad and scribble down sewing plans week by week. I’ve even done a typed template where I can get the satisfaction of crossing out what I’ve done in red pen.

Navy kimono tee and striped Renfrew

Navy kimono tee and striped Renfrew

I started with a couple of easy makes. A navy Maria of Denmark Kimono tee and a Sewaholic Renfrew.

The fabric for the tee was the same cotton / lycra single jersey remnant from Abakhan that I’d used for the bike bloomers. It’s a lovely weight with a slight brushed finish. This piece of fabric only cost £1.50.This is the 4th kimono tee I’ve made. My first was a grey marl one which was my first real attempt at sewing with knits properly. It still looks good after nearly 18 months and gets a lot of wear. That fabric was also a remnant from Abakhan. The second two haven’t been quite as good. The fabric was a single jersey from Calico Laine which after a few washes soon went limp, I still wear them occasionally but feel they are a little bit scruffy.

Navy Maria of Denmark Kimono tee

Navy Maria of Denmark Kimono tee

The single jersey for the Renfrew is a viscose / lycra  red and navy stripe from John Lewis, on sale reduced from £16 to £8 a metre. I used the V neck when I made a pyjama top last summer and trimmed with lace but this is the first time I’ve added the neck band to the V neck. I knew it would be a bit of a challenge and nearly went for the easy round neck version. I liked the effect of the stripes mitring at the centre but getting the shape of the V was a right faff. I stabilised the V with a small piece of stretch iron on interfacing then tacked and re-tacked numerous time until it looked ok. I got there in the end.

The front V on the Renfrew was a bit of a challenge.....

The front V on the Renfrew was a bit of a challenge…..

I sewed these two tops up together using the 4 thread overlocker. On the Kimono tee I got out the twin needle for the hems and surprisingly worked out ok, no tension issues for once.

I’m trying to be realistic about what I can get done and not plan too much in.

I have that lovely Hemingway Designs fabric to use, out of the 3 pieces I have I’m going to use the red print and make a shirtwaister dress. I googled for a pattern and the blogosphere came back with McCall’s M6696. I saw some great dresses so  didn’t bother to look any further.
Dolly Clackett
Polka Dot Girl

McCalls M6696 with Hemingway Designs fabric

McCalls M6696 with Hemingway Designs fabric

I was also inspired by this outfit in the Sunday Times Style mag a few weeks back. I just love that Marc Jacobs skirt. I started looking on line for some cotton twill in the right colour green. I could find forest, bottle, moss, khaki but none looked right so I bought white and a packet of Dylon in olive.  It could all go horribly wrong! I also picked up tangerine jersey for a top, now it’s arrived it’s not quite as vibrant as the top in the photo so it may get put to one side.

Marc Jacobs cotton twill skirt - a snip at £280

Marc Jacobs cotton twill skirt – a snip at £280

What’s next on the list for sewing up is a pair of bike trousers. I’ve been inspired by these Outlier Women’s Daily Riding Pants. The idea is that they don’t look like biking specific trousers but have features such as 4 way stretch and a water resistant finish. A lot of these type of trousers are made from schoeller fabric which is really expensive and not easily available to the home sewer.

This is the swatch of the soft shell fabric. When water hits the surface it doesn't soak in, it just rolls of the face, this is due to the WR (water resistant) finish on the fabric.

This is the swatch of the soft shell fabric. When water hits the surface it doesn’t soak in, it just rolls of the face, this is due to the WR (water resistant) finish on the fabric.

It’s generically know as ‘soft shell’ and I found some on UK fabrics online. I’ve ordered the fabric after getting a sample . I didn’t want to spend too much as I’m not sure how these are going to turn out. The plan is to slim down the leg on my jeans pattern – which looking at my sewing schedule I should have done by now. arggh I’m already behind!

sewing schedule - I like to do the crossing out in red pen.....

sewing schedule – I like to do the crossing out in red pen…..

Hemingway Designs & Lucienne Day Cotton Prints – Fabric Bargains To Be Had!

It was early last year when I first spotted the Hemingway Designs cotton fabric in John Lewis. I fell in love with the colours and retro prints. But at £20 a metre it was a lot to spend. I eventually bought some Lucienne Day print fabric which delved into the John Lewis design archives to celebrate their 150 year anniversary. This was a real treat at £22 per metre and with which I made this summer dress.

I popped into the John Lewis Cheadle branch this weekend and the fabrics are now on sale.

Just before Christmas I noticed at the Trafford Centre store, the Hemingway Designs had been reduced to £10 and they are now reduced again to £5 per metre. The Lucienne Day fabrics were £5.50 per metre.

I just had to buy some; I couldn’t let this opportunity pass!

Hemingway Design Cotton Prints, £5 per metre Whoo Hoo!

Hemingway Design Cotton Prints, £5 per metre Whoo Hoo!

I bought 5 metres of Hemingway fabric, 2 each of the red and pink and 1 of the blue. I’m not sure yet what to make but it is 140cm wide so I’ve got a few options 🙂

If Retro prints are your thing and you live near a John Lewis store pop in and add to your stash!

Dolly Couture! Barbie Gets A New Outfit

My daughter has been asking me for ages to make her dollies some new clothes and I have been putting it off as I couldn’t face doing something so fiddly. She reminded me that one of the contestants in this years Sewing Bee  (Tamara) made dolls clothes for her children so I was beginning to feel a bit mean spirited.

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I used some of the John Lewis Lucienne Day fabric that I had left over from the capped sleeve dress.

Barbie’s figure posed some problems, her waist is far too narrow and she’s quite chesty.

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The skirt is just a rectangle which has elastic zig zagged to the top edge. It’s a  bit loose around the waist as it was impossible for me to get the elastic tight enough and still fit over her hips. The top started off as a rectangle with a back opening. I added darts to the side seam and back sections and a dart at the top of each bust to get the shaping.  I closed the back with a strip of iron on Velcro trimmed down a narrow width.

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I’m quite impressed with my efforts.

Whilst at the machine my daughter said to me “I thought you said you couldn’t make dolls clothes?”
And now I’ve done it once I’m sure she’ll have lots more plans.

The original design brief for the dress

The original design brief for the dress

Kitschy Coo Lady Skater Dress – It Could Be The Best Dress EVER!

After finishing the girl skater dress I was straight into making the Kitschy Cool Lady Skater for myself. When I finished the dress and put it on I was blown away. I wasn’t expecting it to look so good! The fit is fab and I love the drape of the skirt.

Kitschy Coo Lady Skater Dress

Kitschy Coo Lady Skater Dress

I bought the fabric back in March when it was on sale in John Lewis for £7.50 per metre, half price. It’s 100% cotton yarn dyed stripe. I would say it was t-shirt weight and I was beginning to doubt if it was suitable for this dress,

The pattern does suggest you make up a toile but I just wanted to get onto the real thing. The instructions direct you to measure your high bust and around and the waist. I was between size 2-3 for the high bust and 3 for the waist. So for the bodice I cut between the 2 & 3 at the armhole and shoulder then blended into the size 3 at the waist.

It took a while to cut out as I cut all pieces single layer carefully matching the stripes.  After cutting the first piece for the skirt I used the cut piece as the pattern and lined up all the stripes so the front and back skirt would be identical.

When it came to cutting out I can now see the advantages of using a rotary cutter with a self-healing mat I’ve never thought I had the need for them before. I weighted my pattern pieces with tins but to cut with scissors you are having to lift the fabric slightly which can stretch the fabric whereas with the cutter you would just leave it flat. Having a quick google the best price for an A1 self-healing mat is £17.83 from Graphics Direct. The prices can really vary and I suppose the quality does too. Rotary cutters seem to start from around £10. I don’t think I can justify the purchase this month but have a look again after the summer.

But then the sewing got off to a very rocky start….

On my first shoulder seam I stitched the wrong side to the right side. It was easier to cut the seam allowance off rather than try to unpick the triple stretch stitch. (I ignored the fact that the sleeve would be affected). I trimmed down the front and back shoulders on both sides and needed to re-attach the clear elastic to the back shoulders.  When I got to the end of the seam the loose end of the elastic got pushed down into the needle plate and I couldn’t turn the balance wheel to get the needle out. After a bit of struggling the needle came up and I had to take the bobbin out to release the fabric. And then there was a hole.  It was about 1cm in from the edge of the fabric, so I just trimmed the length of the shoulder slightly and re-shaped the armhole and did the same to the opposite side, no-one need ever know!

after an initial struggle I'm happy with the neck band

after an initial struggle I’m happy with the neck band, but somehow I managed to get the centre back seam off centre

The instructions for the neck band have it attached with one shoulder open, I close both shoulders and sew on the round. The neck band on the girl skater was a reasonable success but this one was a pig. It took 2 hours from start to finish. To begin with I thought I’d be clever and use the stripes vertically. The fabric did have some stretch in this direction but of course not as much as horizontally. My usual -15% length for the band from the neck seam length was too short – or I just couldn’t get enough stretch out of the band. I tried twice then gave up. I didn’t want to cut it any longer as I didn’t think it would sit flat against my chest. So I cut it horizontally and it fitted fine, there was a bit of puckering which was sorted out with a steam iron.

Despite taking a bit of the top of the shoulders the sleeves went in OK. When it came to sewing the underarms and side seams I wanted to make sure the stripes matched so I pinned and machine tacked using the longest straight stitch.

I machine tacked the side seams to make sure the stripes matched up

I machine tacked the side seams to make sure the stripes matched up

I had cut the sleeve bands with vertical stripes when I cut out the first neck band because you don’t need to stretch on so much they fitted fine. The pattern instructions suggest you attach before sewing the side seams but I chose to sew on the round.

I started by sewing the hem with the twin needle but the tension wasn’t right and stitches were skipping. I played about with it for while but couldn’t get the stitching to look good enough. On the girl skater dress I got it to work OK, maybe the fabric being a bit thicker helped. So I gave up. I tried different stitches on scraps of fabric. A shallow zig zag just looked rubbish. Then I decided to work my way down the stretch stitches available on my machine and found one that worked and looked good.

options for stitches, grey on the left are standard stitches and the blue on the right are the stretch stitches

options for stitches, grey on the left are standard stitches and the blue on the right are the stretch stitches

It wasn’t quite stitching as the picture but I was still happy with it. It wasn’t until I finished the hem I realised I hadn’t quite clicked the dial on to ‘S.S’ stretch stitch so the stitch was the ‘H’ on the left rather than the right.

right side and wrong side of the hem stitching

right side and wrong side of the hem stitching

A good tip I picked up from the instructions was to use a zig zag stitch when attaching the clear elastic. This along with the Teflon foot made sewing it on straight forward. I had been apprehensive about stitching it to the front and back bodice waistline but there was no problems.

I could have 3 thread overlocked the raw edges but again I couldn’t be bothered to get it out so I zig zagged and trimmed the seam allowances. So top priority is to get the overlocker fixed so it can be used as a 4 thread again. I called Bambers in Eccles to arrange to drop it in. There is currently a  4 week waiting period for machine repairs. He did give me some tips on cleaning the tension wheels which I’ll try but if that doesn’t work I’ll take it in at the weekend. When I told him it was a Singer he told me that some modern Singer machines just aren’t worth fixing but my 20+ year old 14U which was made in Japan is definitely worth it. The last time it was serviced the guy told me to keep hold of it as it was a good model.  So hopefully by the beginning of September it will be up and running again.

I wore the dress to work today and I got 6 compliments on it and me being me just said thanks and didn’t mention I’d made it myself – what’s wrong with me! Then when I was talking to a neighbour this evening who mentioned the dress my husband stepped in and said it for me!

Anyone else use a rotary cutter and self healing mat? Do you think it is worth investing?




Cap Sleeve Summer Dress

I went back to John Lewis a few weeks back to buy some of the Hemmingway Designs fabric which I had seen earlier in the year. At £20 a metre it was a bit of an extravagance. But when I got into the fabric department my head was turned by a range of fabrics produced for the John Lewis 150 year anniversary. The designs are all quite retro and by the fabric designer Lucienne Day who worked for John Lewis as a design consultant between 1962 and 1987.

Capped sleeve dress in John Lewis Lucienne Day fabric


Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation

The fabric I chose is ‘Symphony’ originally produced for Cavendish Textiles in 1954. I was thinking that £20 a metre was steep but this was £22. It’s 150cm wide so I bought 1.2mts with a sleeveless dress in mind. The fabric is 100% cotton with a bit more body than a quilting weight cotton.

Lucienne Day fabrics at John Lewis

Lucienne Day fabrics at John Lewis

The pattern I used is a self drafted fitted cap sleeve bodice. The skirt is just one full width of the fabric gathered onto the bodice.

When I came to cut out the pieces I spent ages faffing about. The pattern isn’t symmetrical and it doesn’t quite run in a straight line horizontally. So I just made sure the vertical lines were running correctly. I did have enough fabric to cut the back pieces so that I could pattern match the centre back. It sounds obvious but when doing this you need to match the stitching line and not the edge of the pattern, I’ve messed this up before by forgetting….

if you want to pattern match cut so the pattern matches at the stitching line and NOT the edge of the fabric

if you want to pattern match cut so the pattern matches at the stitching line and NOT the edge of the fabric when the seam is closed with the zipper the pattern should match perfectly

…so when the seam is closed with the zipper the pattern should match perfectly

I self lined the bodice bagging it out completely. See the method I used in this post on self lining a bodice.

The bodice only has a waist dart for shaping and I ended up taking much more in than the pattern had allowed. After the sewing the dart and realising I needed to still take quite a bit in I put the bodice on inside out, pinned the back opening and then pinched out and pinned the extra amounts from the darts.

the red tacked line shows how much I needed to take in after a fitting

the red tacked line shows how much I needed to take in after a fitting

My original plan was to have side seam pockets. Then I was thinking that with 150cm the skirt wouldn’t be that full so I dropped the pocket idea and decided not to bother with side seams and just have one seam up the back. At the time when I was thinking about this the total of 6cm width of fabric gained from not having seam allowances at the sides was make or break to the fullness of the skirt……..

I tried the dress on before sewing up the back seam and adding the zipper and the lack of pockets stood out. So patch pockets went on. I didn’t have enough scraps to pattern match but I was able to match the vertical lines.

The back opening is an invisible zipper, reasonably successful, I only had to unpick one side once.

I hemmed the skirt of the dress before I added the skirt lining. I measured the length of lining required plus seam allowances for waist and hem. when I attached the skirt lining I pleated it matching the centre front and then stitched to the seam allowance at the waist. To finish the dress I hand stitched the lining down both sides of the zipper and around the waist seam.

The only seams on show were the back seams of the skirt and it’s lining. I neatened them by folding under a tiny bit and stitching.

centre back seam allowances of the skirt and cotton lawn lining

centre back seam allowances of the skirt and cotton lawn lining

The dress is lined in white cotton lawn which I bought on e-Bay from seller The Remnant Shop. £5.49 per metre, 150cm wide. I was really pleased with the quality of this lawn and would definitely recommend it.

We’re off to London later this week and it will get it’s first wearing on Thursday night.

Oh, and of course the skirt is plenty full enough but I think it was those 6cm that made all the difference…… 🙂