Hand Tacking

I am a big believer of hand tacking when it comes to sewing now, not on all things just on some.

I have never had formal training and don’t know the expert way of tacking, I don’t use special threads or needles. For my taking stitches I use a medium to long length stitch using a regular sewing needle, thread wise I usually use a near empty bobbin in a strong contrasting colour so that I can see it easily. I like to pin and then tack. Depending on what I am doing sometimes I leave the pins in sometimes I will take them out. The things I do hand tack are zippers, curved pieces on toys, stuffed limbs in toys. anything that has a lot of pinning particularly at odd angles. Hand tacking stops the fabric layers slipping. Sometimes using my seam ripper I remove the tacking stitches just before the section goes under my sewing machine needle other times I take out the stitches afterwards.

Sometimes patterns will tell you to tack before sewing, these days even if a pattern doesn’t tell me I choose to do it. It may take a few extra minutes to hand tack a piece but the time saved and more importantly stress levels reduced by doing the tacking is worth it. I’m not finishing a seam only to discover I missed half of it. I am doing less reverse sewing (unpicking) by taking the time to hand tack. I am happier with the end result the first time around. On toys in particular I’m getting a better result on gusset pieces which before were my nemesis as I could never get both sides of the gusset to look even. The little bit of extra sewing preparation beforehand pays off in the end. I have heard that using silky type threads are good for tacking as you can remove them easier but I have never had an issue with removing the tacking stitches, plus it is a good way for me to use those near empty bobbins up.



Mini Pinking Shears

I didn’t know you could get pinking shears in a smaller size until I asked at my local quilt shop a few months ago and they just happened to have some come in.

The pair I got measure a total length of 7″ which is 2″ smaller than my original pair which measure at 9″ The cutting blade is smaller on these with a 3″ blade before the pivot, my older ones blade is closer to 4″ I haven’t weighed the two pairs but I can tell by just holding them these are also lighter. I got them a few months ago but this morning was the first time I tried them out.

I’m in the process of making a toy which has a lot of curves in it. On some the pieces I would have traditionally had to snip the curved seams with a small pair of scissors so that the pieces would sit nicely when turned right side out. Using these pinking shears I was about to cut away some of the seam allowance and create notches around the curve so when turned out it sat nicely. It was wonderful to get such even notches around the seam and there was less mess, in the past I have been known to be covered in tiny threads when snipping curves.

I’m calling these mini shears even though the difference is only 2″ to my regular ones. They feel more compact than my regular ones. In the past I have never cut around toy pieces with my larger sheers in case I cut too far and snipped the seam but with these smaller ones I can. If you come across different size pinking shears I think they would be a good investment for your sewing stash. Now that I know how well these work I will be using them again on toys and other curvy seams.


Pink Swirl

I made the Pink Peppermint blanket using some spare balls of pink yarn I had in my stash but I was left with small scraps of leftovers from it. If I didn’t have enough yarn to do a row I started a new ball so I ended up these odd size scraps. I decided to knot them all together and make a yarn cake with them using my electric ball winder, variegated or multi coloured yarn cakes are very popular at the moment so why not make you own from scraps.

I decided to crochet up a granny square as they are the easiest to make when you don’t know if you have enough yarn. Granny squares also make great toy blankets. The random colour lengths were due to the length of scraps I had, confession as I was making up the yarn cake at one point I did cut one colour as it seemed to lot of it and tie in the other colour so there is a little human intervention in this. The final blanket has turned out to have a bit of a swirl shape which I think was due to each round I wasn’t tying in a new colour I was just chaining up and starting the round, also I wasn’t turning my work I was just going in the same direction each time. I’m not worried about the shape, it just adds to the fun of it. This blanket will go to my nieces so their dollies can have a matching blanket to theirs.

It was a fun experiment to make up my own yarn cake from scraps. I’m going to do this again with leftover wool scraps from the various blankets I’ve done as gifts so I can make WIRES pouches from them. I don’t care if there are knots in my yarn as I’m working (some people don’t like knots in the middle of rows) I have lots of scraps and it will be good to use them up


The Dressmaker – The Movie

Last weekend I picked up a copy of The Dressmaker at the shops and watched it.

Was it what I was expecting? I don’t know to be honest what I was expecting. It was only after it was finished watching it that I read in the credits it was based on the book which meant it didn’t follow the entire storyline. Throughout the movie I kept comparing it to the book in my head which in hindsight had I known it was only based on the book I wouldn’t have compared the 2 so much. I didn’t really pay that much attention to the previews of the movie when it was at the cinema so I hadn’t seen a lot of it. The movie is a light hearted comedy, it is funny to think of this tiny town in the outback of Australia where the woman are climbing ladders in ball gowns just to change a light globe. The costumes were great and I would’ve liked to see more of them. The acting was good, I enjoyed spotting all the local Australian actors in it. It was a good movie but to be honest not something I am likely to watch again. Both the book and the dvd will go in my swap pile for a Sydney Spoolette’s swap day next month. Once I have seen or read something I generally don’t go back to it a second or third time.

I’m not much of a movie critic as to be honest I don’t really watch movies and dvds. This is a good movie if you do get the chance to see it, I think you will enjoy it. There are some really funny parts and visually the clothing and scenery is lovely. And if your wondering yes it does make you want to get to your sewing machine and whip up an outfit.


Kids Messenger Bag

I have always wanted to make a simple messenger bag. I had seen this tutorial by Zaaberry for a kid’s size bag floating around Pinterest for some time and decided to finally give it ago.

It is a great to tutorial to follow with the instructions easy to read. This is a very basic bag with no closure or pockets or anything inside but you could easily make this more complex and add details to this if you wanted to. I kept it basic and followed the pattern. For the outside fabric I used some spotted quilting cotton I picked up last year because it was on sale and I liked it, I knew I would find the perfect project for it.

The fabric for the flap and the lining is a cotton I picked up a few years ago just because it was pink and had chocolates and pastries on it. The print on it is very bright and visible on both sides of the fabric which is how I made a minor mistake. I have placed one lining fabric the wrong side up. Some fabrics you can clearly see which is the right and wrong side of the fabric, on this fabric it is a little bit trickier. This fabric was only faintly lighter one side and if you weren’t paying attention fully like I must not have been when I grabbed it to pin it and sew it you put it the wrong way. I only discovered it after I finished the bag and I left it. It is not extremely obvious and aside from that the rest of the bag is fine, it is on the inside and still looks pink and brown.

You learn some from every project. On this bag I learnt how to make attach a simple bag flap and also that you need to pay attention to each individual fabric to see how it needs to be treated – it is a directional print, is the right side and wrong side visible. These things may sound basic but sometimes you forget them like I clearly did.



The Dressmaker

Over this past week I read The Dressmaker by Roaslie Ham so I can tick one thing off my To Craft list this month.

I started reading it when I first got the book a few years ago but from where my bookmark was placed it looks like I only read the first few chapters. I started reading it from the beginning again. I think the reason I put it down and never got back to it is that is slow to get in to. There are a lot of different characters and at times I did get a bit confused of who was who. Once the story line got going I found it to be ok, I read some each afternoon but could easily stop and do something and come back to it without needing to rush back to it. Some books I can’t put down or I have to read to the end of the chapter and struggle to put it down for the day, sadly not in this book. Some days I would read to the end of the chapters other days just to the end of the page. There was some moments in the book that I wasn’t expecting so it does have twists in the plot. I liked reading about the characters wearing all their different fabrics and I did try to imagine them in my head and I think that maybe what kept me interested in the book. The ending for me was a little bit unfinished, I could reason with most of the ending but one part made me think why?

My overall thoughts are it is an easy read. I think it would be a great book for a holiday where you can pick the book up at your leisure and read some casually. You have to get past the first few chapters which are a little slow but then it gets better and your mind gets lost in a world of fabric and fashion. It is worth the read if you haven’t seen the movie which is my next step. I thought I had brought the dvd but it turns out I hadn’t so I will be getting it this weekend to watch over Easter. From everyone’s thoughts on Instagram the movie is better than the book. Normally I always think that books are better than movies but I think this may be the exception to the rule as I think the clothing and fabrics need to come alive visually and you need the real life expressions in the characters to really understand them.



Knitted WIRES Pouches

I have been knitting the outer pouches for WIRES for a number of years. The outer pouches need to be made from 100% wool so that the animals once placed in cloth pouch linings can still breathe inside this outer pouch. A rescue career only goes through about one of these outer pouches a day per animal as opposed to the 5-6 they go through of the inner pouch linings.

I could never find set a knitting pattern only guidelines on finished size and needle size so over the years I have been knitting these various ways. I started by knitting 2 squares and seaming them along the 2 sides and bottom to make up the pouch until I realised if I knitted one big rectangle and folded it in half I wouldn’t have to do a bottom seam only side seams. Over the years the way I do my seams has changed I have tried whip stitch, blanket stitch, backstitch and in recent times I have been crocheting my seams together with a chain stitch. I have a tendency to knit my rectangles and once the piece is off my needles place it in a bag waiting to be seamed. I only remember to the seams when I’m due to send of some of the cloth linings off and scramble to see if any of the outer bags are complete. I thought there has to be a better way.

Over the last couple of months I have been doing a lot of knitting and searching out knitting patterns when I started thinking about the way the pouches are constructed and wondered if they can be done on circular needles. I did a quick google search and it turns out yes someone has now put instructions on how to do them on circular needles!

I had some cable needles in my stash but unfortunately they were too big (I didn’t know about the magic loop method) Once I cast on my stitches I couldn’t easily join them in the round as my cable was too long and my needles kept getting in the way. I went to Morris and Sons to see if they had smaller cables. They suggested I try a 40cm Knit Pro one with smaller length needles

The needles are so tiny only measuring just over 6cm from the cable connection point. The shop assistant warned some knitter’s don’t like using them as they are so very short. This is when she mentioned the magic loop method and demonstrated it for me. I decided to try the small needles and cable and turn to magic loop using my existing cables if it didn’t work.

Once you cast on your stitches it looks like it won’t fit around to make the loop easily but remembering knitting stretches and these are tiny needle it works. There looks like there is a small little gap when you join your loop but they that closes up once you get into your second round.

When I knitted my pouches previously I knitted over my tail end in the second row so it was one less end to weave in at the finish. You can do the same thing with this method. Even though your working on a small cable and shorter needles it isn’t fiddly. I like the feel of it in my hands. Every so often you need to slide the work around the cable when you feel like your starting to pull the stitches, that is easy to do and you get in the habit of regularly doing it even before it starts to pull.

The reason I decided to try circular needles was so I only had one seam to do at the end which was the bottom seam to close the pouch off. The amazing shop assistant suggested I could do a 3 needle bind off which avoid having to do a bottom seam. I couldn’t believe it I could actually make a pouch in one hit with no additional seams at the end!

Comparing the 2 methods of making the pouches the circular needles are defiantly the method I am using now. I must admit previously I was probably making my pouches a little large as I wasn’t sure how much they would come in once my seams were done. With straight needles I occasionally loose stitches or gain stitches the rectangles are not always straight therefore once seamed sometimes looks misshapen.

With no side seams or bottom seam they are much lighter and less bulkier. The top of my pouch has curled a little and just reading the instructions now it says to purl so many rows at the start I’m guess that would so stop the curl. To be honest I am probably not going to do that. One of the reasons why I love knitting pouches is that you can go on auto pilot and you only have to measure once you know it is coming to the length you need. The curl is only small and doesn’t really make that much of impact.

Pouches on circular needles is a life changer for me. I am actually doing more knitting of them now as I can pick up the needles and do a few stitches any time I have free. I don’t have to worry about finishing at row or turning my work. One thing I did find was it was easier to cast on my stitches using the cable as one needle and using the 3rd needle as a second needle to cast on. The way I see it is that I’m going to be casting off one pouch and casting on another immediately so that 3rd needle is out anyway. I still have a few rectangles that need to be seamed up but all future pouches will be made this way. I may even invest in a second set of these smaller needles so that I will always have a pouch at a stage where I can just knit and not have to worry how long until I need to cast off, this is particularly important if I am taking my knitting out to a café or events with me.