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    New Sewing machine :)

    I decided it was time for a new sewing machine. Not for classes - I use my Janome J3-24 for those as it's such a reliable machine that I've had for around 8 or 9 years now. I want to replace my home machine. I have a Singer Brilliance 6180 which is great for dressmaking & most sewing, but doesn't deal with all the layers involved in bag making well. It also doesn't have a way to drop the feed dog, just a plastic plate to cover it. That works fine for sewing buttons on, but it doesn't really cut it for free motion embroidery. 

    I ordered a Necchi online, but when it arrived, it wasn't what I needed. So I called the company, and after talking about what I needed, they switched the Necchi for an AEG 260. It arrived on Friday, and I didn't get the chance to open it until early evening.

    I've never come across an AEG machine before, even though I've seen a lot of machines in my classes & workshops. It's german made, and comes with a 15 year guarantee, so it should be fine, but I thought I would give it a proper test.

    First, on some mid weight scrap fabric, I tested each stitch pattern. I especially love the ones shown in the detail photo . The flowers are lovely, but more importantly - CROCODILES! That one is going to be used all the time!

    Then I tested all the buttonholes. You can see where I started the second one too close to the first and had to abandon it. I don't know why anyone other that a professional tailor would need 8 buttonholes, but I like to check them anyway. I'm pretty sure that I will use the default one most of the time (top, rectangular), but I also really like the top left one with the pointed end bar & rounded (rather than keyhole) top. 

    Finally I tested layers. The bottom left photo shows the results. I didn't change needle or thread, but switched to denim. The straight line was sewn through 4 layers. All the others were sewn through 8 layers, without the slightest problem.  The only thing I haven't tested yet is free motion sewing but as you can drop the feed dog, I don't anticipate any problems All in all, it's a great start - and it looks like I'll be able to sell my Singer! 

    What do you do when you get a new sewing machine? Do you leave it in the box like lots of the people who end up on my sewing classes? Do you test stitches like I do? Or do you just dive right in and make clothes?


    Get your Granny on - inspiration

    I've had a couple of days where I've been sewing & gardening. I remembered that people in 'normal' jobs take weekends off! Yesterday I was doing work-related sewing stuff for the weekly classes I teach at Kingshill House in Dursley, so I've been away from crochet for a few days. I'm back today & trying to stick to writing patterns - although I still have samples to make. I much prefer actually doing crochet to writing crochet patterns, so that's always a bit of a battle!

    I'll write more about how I'm writing the patterns in another post. Today I wanted to let you know a bit about the inspiration for the book. This book hadn't been on my radar at all. There are other ideas in my head, but they are all more complicated, and this one appeared almost fully formed. My previous post talks a bit about why it popped up.

    Although I had the basics down, I wanted something to bring the collection together - a kind of narrative for the book. Then I realised - grannies are the whole book. Granny squares have survived essentially unchanged for about as long as there has been crochet. I also had real life grannies. My paternal grandma died quite a long time ago, when I was at Uni, but my maternal Gran died 3 years ago - you can read about her here. My children have grannies. Grans & grandads are important.

    I'm always a little uncomfortable with the idea that knitting & crochet should be somehow different, better than what your granny did. How many articles do we see about 'The New Knitting' and how it's 'Not your Nanny's knitting'? My grandmothers had to knit/crochet/sew to clothe & warm their families. They would have knitted to help the war effort during the First & Second World Wars. (Interesting article here) They didn't have access to all the glorious choice of yarns that we do now. And I refuse to look down on the work they did as somehow less than the work I do now.

    I don’t want to poke fun at grannies – I want to honour them.

    That's the narrative for the book. It is absolutely happymaking, and I very much hope that all the grannies in my life would either make or wear these designs. All the projects are named after women in my family life – actual grannies or not – that I want to honour. There are more women than projects actually, so maybe I will need to do another book!




    'This thing of paper' blog tour & interview

    I'm a huge fan of Karie Westermann's designs, and we've been online friends since the first issues of Knit Now back in 2011. (Issue 61 has just been published & my oversized lace scarf is on the cover!) 

    So I was very excited when I heard the details about 'This thing of Paper' and I'm thrilled to be part of the blog tour - if you've come here from Natalie Servant's blog post, thanks for popping over! 

    'This thing of Paper' will be a book that incorporates both knitting designs & essays. Inspired by the age of Johan Guttenburg and his invention of the printing press, I'm sure we will see lots of Karie's intelligent approach to super wearable design. 

    Image ©Karina Westermann

    You might have heard about the amazing success of Karie's kickstarter campaign, which is (at time of writing) 162% funded with 21 days to go! I had plenty of questions for her, but I was remarkably self restrained!

    Me: Your 'This Thing of Paper' kickstarter campaign was launched and and all the money pledged within 24 hours. Were you prepared for that kind of response? 

    K: I was really, really surprised. I had allowed myself to think that maybe the initial rush would result in about £3,000 within the first day, and then it'd be a month-long campaign to get the rest of the money needed. Well, that obviously didn't happen! We hit the initial goal of £9,700 within 25 hours. 

    Hitting the target goal so fast meant that I needed to take a step back and reassess the project. I would definitely be able to deliver the book I promised, but suddenly there was potential money for improving the paper quality and things like that. The initial target was a bare-bones budget and because it had been met so quickly, I could allow myself to think of some things I hadn't dared to consider before.

    But mainly I just felt like I was being love-bombed by the entire knitting community which felt really, really amazing. I was not prepared for that!

    Me: I felt extra pressure from simply blogging about my 'Get your Granny on' book idea. How has the success of your campaign made you feel? 

    K: Oddly I feel very calm about the book now. I know it will get made and I can get it made without any compromises. That is a huge thing for me. 

    On a personal level, I feel like I have been through an earthquake! This Thing of Paper is a very geeky, arty and bookish project. I was bullied pretty badly at school for being a geeky, arty and bookish girl - you know, wounds heal and they leave scars that unfortunately stay with you throughout your life. And now this wonderful community of people have told me that it's perfectly fine to be geeky, arty and bookish!

    There is some sense of pressure to this project (it wouldn't be right if I didn't feel that) but mostly it has taken away a lot of other things weighing me down. Does that make sense?

    Me: Your previous collection, Doggerland, has been well received as an ebook. Why have you made the decision to go physical with this book?

    K: People kept telling me that they wanted a physical book! And so I sat down and thought about it. I had been wanting to make a knitting book inspired by medieval manuscripts & early printed books since 2012, and suddenly it dawned on me that the most delicious thing in the world would be a physical knitting book about the thing-ness of books. Once I had made that connection, there was no going back.

    Me: I know that your knitting patterns always have wearability at the forefront. Looking at your Pinterest board  I imagine the actual patterns will have plenty of colourwork, but I can see cables too. Can you give us any hints about what sort of things we will be seeing in the designs?

    The book will be divided into three sections: 1) Manuscript, 2) Invention, and 3) Printed. Obviously the book will have an overarching colour palette & feel to it, but each section will be like a mini-capsule in itself. 

    1) Manuscript will have colourwork and some texture worked in rich colours on a background of natural shades.

    2) Invention will have some of the same elements but slightly more subdued. You will see extra emphasis on texture. Still rich colours.

    3) Printed will be more pared back with a very defined colour palette. Again, emphasis on texture here.

    Me: You've mentioned that there will also be essays included in 'This thing of paper'. I find this very exciting - for me, it's one of the things that makes a pattern collection into a really special book, the inclusion of 'other' stuff that comes from a passionate interest in something. I know basically nothing about this area - I'm a prolific reader but have never thought too much about the printing process itself. I'm looking forward to finding out more. Are all the essays going to be written by you, or will there be others involved?

    K: I introduced the idea of essays in 'Doggerland' - pieces of writing that told a story or added context to a design. This Thing of Paper will have similar essays - all written by me. I have a background in book history, so unlike Doggerland, I already know a lot about 14-16th century book production! Basically, I have read 15th century treatises on the moral decay caused by the printing press, so you don't have to! More importantly, I see a lot of parallels between Gutenberg's (alleged!) invention and the media landscape of the 21st century: big changes to how we receive information and how knowledge is spread. 

    Well, I don't know about you - but I'm intrigued! There's still time to contribute to the kickstarter - it looks like there will be extra bonus things added. Thanks to Karie for answering my questions. It's been interesting reading all the tour posts so far - everyone seems to relate to something different. Next on the blog tour is another of my favourite creative & intelligent people - Woolly Wormhead. I'm lucky enough to have met Woolly in real life & I love her approach to design. Her blog is always interesting and she's not often persuaded to take part in blog tours, so be sure to check her out! I'm basically going to be fangirling my way through the whole tour :)

    The full blog tour can be followed here:

    May 26: Naomi Parkhurst

    May 27: Meg Roper

    May 30: Natalie Servant

    June 1: Jacqui Harding

    June 6: Woolly Wormhead

    June 8: Tom of Holland / Tom van Deijnen

    June 10: Ella Austin

    June 13: Leona Jayne Kelly of Fluph

    June 15: JacquelineM

    June 16: Felix Ford/KNITSONIK

    June 17: Clare Devine

    June 20: Dianna Walla


    Granny square love

    It's funny, how sometimes something is just a bit meh, and other times it's all you think about!

    Crochet granny squares have always been my most popular class by miles. Maybe because I spent so much time teaching them, I was not especially bothered about them.

    But I decided to take a break from teaching the class, and stressful things happened and my creativity reduced. One day I thought about just why granny squares are so popular, and I picked up my hook. A couple of granny squares later my creative brain started pinging. And an almost fully fledged book idea appeared in my head, entirely by itself.

    Granny squares? Really? They are such a cliche!

    But more & more I felt that I might be onto something. I had a chat with some friends (including the lovely and very helpful Joanne of Not So Granny & half of The Crochet Project - thanks!) and I started to play around with some of my extensive stash. And the things I made were good. We were going through the annual stress with county over our son's education - but even more so this time as he is 16 and that's the time that is most likely to trigger a school move. We also had to go through the process of applying for PIP (Personal independence payment) on his behalf, which anyone who has done it knows is a horrible process. But the simplicity of granny squares, the repetitive stitches, the feel of good yarn, the interplay of colours, all worked their magic. No deadlines. Crochet as therapy. And ideas kept coming.

    And so there will be a book. A physical, printed, self published book. I prefer physical books for crafts - useful to have electronic patterns so I can print out and scribble on them - but on the whole I prefer books. The patterns will also be available as pdfs so people who prefer e-patterns don't need to worry! I'm tweaking the patterns I've already made, and I've planned the missing designs. All accessories, no blankets. Simple, stylish, easy to wear accessories, all of them based on granny squares & using that construction. Some are not square - there are triangles and hexagons too - but if you can make a granny square you can make these.

    I need to find out how much the tech editing, photography & printing will cost, and I am planning a modest Kickstarter campaign to help to fund those, but mostly to gauge how many books I will need to print in the first* run. I don't want to impose a deadline on myself, but I do want to get it done reasonably soon. Ideally I want to have the book ready for sale this autumn.

    Here's one of the hats blocking - I love the simplicity of the stitches & shape that showcase the pretty yarn so well. I will tell you more about the inspiration and the narrative of the book later. I'm so happy with it!

    *assuming I sell some & don't end up using a pile of self published books as a night table or something.......


    Me Made May - Everyday Skirt by Liesl & Co

    Are you taking part in Me Made May? I haven't made a formal pledge, but I tend to wear home made clothes pretty often anyway.

    I am pretty pleased with how this wearable practise skirt came out. I found the pattern at a charity shop a week or so ago, already cut in a size L, so I didn't make any alterations for this version other than adding premade piping to the pocket openings (which you can't see on this photo), and I think I'll make it again. It's very easy to wear and more flattering than most elasticated waist skirt patterns, as it's only elasticated at the back - the front has a flat waistband with a lightly gathered front panel. Pattern is the Everyday Skirt by Liesl & Co. They are the adult version of Oliver & S who make gorgeous kid's patterns - worth checking out if you haven't come across them. What's especially good is the range of decent boy patterns - boys are often rather left out when it comes to cute practical kids patterns.

    The instructions for the skirt were very clearly written, although I didn't really have to pay much attention to them. If you wanted an even easier sew, you could simply skip the pockets - just draw the pattern line staight across the pocket indent & skip the pocket pieces. I used a really small amount of fabic - less than a metre, but it was wider than quilting cotton - so it's a good one for using up fabric that's not got enough yardage for more complex skirts. I used a different gathering method than the pattern suggested - I did a line of zig zag stitching over a piece of cord, then took out the cord & stitches after sewing the gathers in place. The skirt isn't lined, but that's not a problem as I can just wear a slip underneath if I'm wearing tights, and in the summer I don't want a lined skirt anyway. Although this fabric is way more see through than I realised, so I might need to wear one anyway!