Sunday, 28 April 2013

Great British Sewing Bee Final

The Great British Sewing Bee came to its conclusion last Tuesday. I felt a bit sad for Lauren in the final as she is obviously talented but felt overshadowed by the magnitude of Ann and became quite emotional. It was unfortunate that the task she was most dreading, to sew a man's shirt, came up in the final.

Image from BBC iPlayer

There is no way you can suddenly whip up decades of sewing experience when you are pitched against someone that experienced and I felt she was the winner in a way. I'm sure she will get tons of work as a result of it.

Though it was obvious to me who would win from about the second episode and I made my predictions, I enjoyed seeing the talent from the other contestants.

You can watch the whole series on the BBC iPlayer.

You can buy the tie-in book from Search Press.

You can keep the spirit of the series alive by taking up sewing yourself and taking that first step. You could sign up for a sewing class at your local college for September or over summer if they do summer courses. You could look at my book reviews for a sewing book to get started with.

Don't be sad - keep the sewing vibe alive by exploring the craft blogosphere and your local sewing shop. There will be another series along soon!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Book Review: Knitted Cats & Kittens by Sue Stratford

'Knitted Cats & Kittens' by Sue Stratford is a funny alternative to the usual knitted animal books based around bears or bunnies.

There are 20 cats and kittens of all shapes, sizes and colours and even a pattern for mice and a scratching post thrown in for good measure. This alley cat is my favourite in the entire book.

There is two pages on materials, advice on yarn, filling, safety eyes and threads. There is also two pages on techniques such as i-cord, mattress stitch (all the cats and kittens are based on flat knitting with two knitting needles), wrap and turn, three-needle cast off, fair isle technique, intarsia technique and chain stitch. The diagrams are very clear and easy to follow.

She has the usual abbreviations at the back of the book but she has not specified what yarns she has used throughout the book. At the beginning of each pattern she just writes 'DK' which is fine but personally I would have liked to be told which yarn was in the picture of the cat to try and make it look as good. There are a huge array of different 'DK' yarns which could look completely different when knitted up as a cat.

She does not specify how much yarn you will need either - just one ball or two balls and in some of the larger projects this may leave you to run out of yarn when you are almost at the end. She does tell you how big the cats will come out and the tension so if you made sure your yarn will knit up to the same tension you would not have any problems, but beginner knitters may not understand this. She says at the beginning of the book that 'In all cases, unless the pattern states how many balls are needed, just one ball or less has been used. Quantities are only provided for projects that require more than one ball.'

Apart from this the book is super cute and has a whimsical air about it. The cats are well constructed and the book would be a lovely addition to any toy knitter's bookcase.

'Knitted Cats & Kittens' by Sue Stratford is currently sold out at Search Press but you can buy one of nine new copies at or any other booksellers you may be able to think of : )

Thanks to Search Press for sending me this book to review.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Book Review: Knit back in time by Geraldine Warner

'Knit back in time' by Geraldine Warner is a must have for anyone who loves vintage and knitting.

You may be thinking it contains lots and lots of vintage style jumper and cardigan patterns - if you did you would be wrong.

'Knit back in time' is a textbook which informs you how to do two different things - how to update vintage patterns to suit modern sizes and yarns and also how to customise modern patterns for vintage-style elements.

You may have noticed, if you shop in thrift or charity shops, that there is usually a box of old patterns for about 20-50p each. This book will tell you exactly how to alter the pattern slightly and substitute yarn.

For example, in the latter half of the book she has featured the same modern jumper but she's included four different retro vintage sleeves to put with the main body, a puff sleeve crown (my favourite), a pleated sleeve crown, a box top sleeve and a fitted long sleeve.

At the back there are tips for finishing, such as blocking and sourcing the right buttons as well as the different types of buttonholes you can knit or crochet. There is a page with 11 embroidery stitches if you want to get artistic and five fair isle patterns including a very cute cherry.

There are also patterns for cuffs, collars and pockets. If you are looking at starting to design jumpers this is a really helpful introduction and a comprehensive guide to begin with.

'Knit back in time' by Geraldine Warner ia available from the Search Press website now.

Thanks to Search Press for sending me this book to review.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Pick up and knit stitches

Unless you were knitting before school or kindergarten and designing garments for your schoolmates after finishing with your snoopy lunchbox you may have to learn a few things about knitting. The kind of people who can pick up knitting needles and design really quickly are rare and most of us require a YouTube video or two along the journey to knitting nirvana.

One of the things which really confused me a couple of years ago was picking up and knitting stitches. At the time I was working on my cream cardigan (the one that died). It used Rowan 4 ply cotton which split. Not great yarn to learn how to pick up and knit with.

Also the pattern said pick up and knit something like 86 stitches and no matter how hard I tried I always seemed to end up with 92. The amount of half stitches I picked up was astonishing and I gave up. I had looked for a tutorial online but hadn't found one. So, as I'm looking at a knitted cardigan pattern on Ravelry which I've been assured is very simple, I thought back to when this technique would have scared me to death. I have practised with aran yarn and the process comes naturally now. If you have been stumped by this too watch the video above!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Great British Sewing Bee: Contestants

Following in the footsteps of Mastercrafts on BBC Two comes the Great British Sewing Bee with Claudia Winkleman. It starts tomorrow at 8pm.

It will follow the formula of the Great British Bake Off, with two contestants being thrown overboard each week, this time into a sea of navy trimmings and buttons instead of victoria sponge.

Chevron Sewing Trio by 'By Samantha' on Etsy

You can check out the eight contestants on the BBC website.

I personally admire Michelle the most as she balances a job as manager of Centrepoint, a homeless charity, with sewing for herself. Tilly looks the most enthusiastic as she has only been sewing for two years, yet has an entire wardrobe of handmade clothes. Ann looks to be the most experienced and will also have a good chance I think.

Wouldn't it be great if the winner is not amongst those three and is someone totally unexpected?

Of course it also depends on how well they do under pressure, not just sewing skills. Michelle looks good here too as she works under significant pressure constantly, but we'll see.

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