Ascent Fleece- on the climb

The Ascent Fleece is the final project from my amended make 9 for the year (excluding the unfinished Taylor Trench). It’s not finished yet, but I always find it helpful to know a bit more about the instructions and construction methods when using different pattern designers, and this is the first thing I have made from 5 out of 4 patterns.

When I was cutting out, I did notice a few of the notch markings didn’t sit quite on the lines, particularly as you went up though the sizes. It wasn’t always easy to follow the size lines either because the fold lines had been printed slightly offset for each size, but not enough to be clear. It might be better on a colour print though, because I just used black and white. I chose to sew the size S which is a bit of guesswork into which size will be best after baby is born, but I’m hoping it will be comfortable!

These fleece fabrics come from Pennine Outdoor, which specialises in outdoor and technical fabric. I chose the Navy and Denim Blue microfleeces, and I’m really pleased with my colour selections. The fleeces are a perfect weight, and very soft. I have some of their wicking t-shirt fabric too, which I’m hoping will be good for some technical walking t-shirts and was a bit of a bargain too!

I’ve used a scrap of sportswear lycra for the pocket linings in the hope that it will be nice and breathable. This fleece requires a few extras including 5 zips if you choose to put in the pockets and the nursing option which is a bit daunting! The instructions are a bit unusual in that they contain lots of hyperlinks to jump you around to the next step for your version of the pattern. It does seem to work ok as you are sewing, but is a bit confusing to skim read through in advance and I definitely would advise using a digital copy rather than a printed version.

I found the diagram and instructions on joining the two zips in the contrast seam (one for the pocket, and one for the nursing access) pretty confusing. I made my best guess at it, but it did make installing the zips very bulky at the join. I think next time I would just install each zip separately, one at a time and then trim back anything that wasn’t needed.

There is no easy way to finish these seams once the zips are in either. For this time, I’m not going to worry about it. Almost all of the seam is covered by the zip and pocket anyway, and the fleece doesn’t fray. In future, I might consider finishing the edge of the piece before putting in the zip though.

There is just one pocket piece provided for all the different sizes, which is fine, but the instructions suggest stitching the pockets to the front bodice piece as an option, and I have found that on the size S the two pockets overlap one another in the middle. I did still manage to attach them to the front piece, but I ended up having to stitch up the centre line of the front to secure both pockets at the same time, rather than attaching them individually. They are both nice and secure though now.

It sounds like I’m not a fan of the pattern based on my observations so far, but I am actually really looking forward to the end result. These little niggles are all things I will bear in mind if I make the pattern again, but so far none of them will stop me from using it. The drafting of the pieces themselves seems really good, and both the method of construction and the instructions have been pretty helpful so far. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished article.


Top tips for t-shirts

The last little while on the blog seems to have been taken over by baby clothes, but normal service is resumed today! I’ve been making a few more Megan Nielson Amber‘s, and being as this is a real tried and true pattern for me I thought I would share a few of the little tips and tricks that I have picked up in the course of making them. Some of this applies to most jersey top (or dress) patterns, and some is slightly more specific to the Amber. (I’ve already blogged t-shirts here, here and here, a dress, and a t-shirt hack)

This time I’ve made a dress and a couple of tops, all from cotton spandex jerseys from Girl Charlee. The dress is this lovely muted floral, with some of their solid cotton spandex for the modesty panel (I always keep a couple of colours in my stash for cuffs, and t-shirts). I’ve also made a short sleeve t-shirt version for now in this feather print, and a plain navy long sleeve for layering when the weather cools down. I plan to be wearing these for at least the next year or so during pregnancy and breastfeeding so I’m looking forward to having a few more options this time around.

My first deviation from the pattern is to stabilise the shoulders with some narrow ribbon. I do this to all the adult t-shirts or jersey dresses that I make whether or not it is included in the pattern instructions. The shoulder seam takes a lot of the weight of the rest of the garment, and over time that could stretch. Sewing some 5mm ribbon into the seam allowance before I start construction is a great way to help them look good for longer.

The Amber top has a lot of neckline to finish neatly before you can carry on with putting the whole bodice together, especially if you include the modesty panel. Some of the curves are quite tight, and the fabric has to stretch quite a bit to sit neatly. Before I sew these neckline edges, I always press and then fuse hemming web into them. It means that I don’t need any pins which makes the sewing up a doddle and the hemming web gives the neckline a bit of stability, preventing it from stretching out as you sew. I always buy 2cm wide hemming web and cut it into either halves or third widths depending on what I need. I’ve also never worried about finishing these edges on the overlocker because the jersey doesn’t fray, and the hemming web also helps to keep the possible curling up of edges under control. Most of my Amber’s have been worn and washed regularly over the last two years and the neckline still looks pristine on all of them.

On my first Amber, I decided to skip the instruction to baste the pleats and then baste to the waistband before overlocking or stitching properly and it nearly ended in disaster! There are quite a few fiddly layers to manoeuvre at the front of the bodice, and I managed to catch one of them in the overlocker knife. Fortunately it was only a little nick and was concealed in the layers, but now I always baste this step and I haven’t had any issues since.

This tip works for all jersey garments- if I am planning to finish the hems (sleeves or at the bottom) on the overlocker, I always do it before attaching them to the rest of the garment, and always before sewing the piece into a circle. It is so simple to overlock a straight edge, but a bit more fiddly to start and finish a circle neatly. You can also press a ‘memory hem’ at this stage too, which is just a fancy way of saying press the hem allowance up then unfold again before stitching. It makes hemming really easy because there is less fiddly pressing in a circle.

For sewing t-shirts I usually just use my overlocker for all the seams but I always need to stitch hems on the sewing machine. I use either an even zigzag (usually 2.5mm width 2.5mm length) or a twin needle. I don’t mind the look of either, so it often comes down to laziness in deciding to change needles and re-thread for the twin needle version!

If you don’t have two spools of the same thread for a hem, an easy fix is to load a bobbin with the same thread and use that in the second needle. Especially if I have been overlocking in white, I will often put white thread in my bobbin for the hem and use the coloured bobbin thread in the twin needle. It stops me having too many part-filled bobbins of odd colours. Here I used the end of a bobbin of dark blue thread which blended in with the overlocking.

So these are the finished Ambers. Right from the start of the year I left a planned wildcard but with thoughts of making a jersey dress in my make 9 so I’m counting this as another project ticked. These dresses really are so comfortable so I know this one will get plenty of wear, especially with leggings as the weather starts to cool. In this one the fabric does contain a bit of rayon which makes it a bit more drapey than all the other versions I have made. As a result the length seems to have grown a bit, so I’m not sure if it looks a bit nightdress-y? I might re-hem so that it sits above the knee like my other dress version.

With the white background and array of colours, this t-shirt feels bright and summery so it’s had some good outings already. It might not be quite the right thing over the winter, but I’m sure it will be worn plenty again in the spring.

Conversely, this navy blue one felt a bit dark and boring when I was sewing it up, but I know it’s moment is almost here. I love a good long sleeve for layering in winter so this will end up underneath all my dresses or even other t-shirts to make them more seasonally appropriate. This might be the most times that I have used any single pattern, so it has been a great value buy. What is your ‘can’t live without’ pattern?

All wrapped up in wool

Not quite my usual type of post today, but I have something to share which I have been working on since the spring! I don’t do much knitting because I have struggled to find the patience, but having made a cardigan for Toby when he was small (it still fits!), I decided I should at least attempt to make one for this baby too.

I used the same West Yorkshire Spinners Bo Peep yarn as Toby’s cardigan, but this time in a really cute green and grey self striping colourway called magic. I thought that the pastel green was a good option for either boy or girl, and the range of colours made knitting it satisfying, watching the colour change as I continued.

Toby’s ‘Lil Dreamer’ cardigan came from a book of knitting patterns, and was a fairly basic design with just ribbing and stockingette stitch for the majority of the knitting. That made it very achievable for a fairly novice knitter, but didn’t help with my boredom in the stockingette sections! This time I wanted to find something with a bit more interest throughout and thought that some kind of lace knitting pattern might help. I found this free pattern on Ravelry called ‘the gift’ which seemed like a good option to keep me more engaged in the project!

This required me to learn quite a few new things fairly quickly! Unlike the previous cardigan, this one is knitted top down and all in one, so there is no sewing up to do at the end. There are new to me stitches in the lace pattern, including yarn over’s to make the little holes and a variety of different ways of combining and decreasing stitches too. I really enjoyed the challenge though of learning something new and keeping to the pattern, though I did have a couple of frustrating moments when I needed to unknit sections because I had missed a yarn over and the mistake would have been very visible in the pattern.

Even the stockinette section seemed to go fairly quickly, thought that might have been partially because I made the smallest 3 month size this time so that it hopefully fits over the winter. The bottom ribbing and cuffs are quite fun, because they also have a lace effect to mirror the pattern in the yoke.

The final new skill was knitting in the round for the sleeves, which took a few rows to get my head around, but is really cool once it is working. You Tube has definitely been my friend at various points in this knitting, but the instructions in the pattern were very good too. The one point at which I got a little confused was the button band and buttonholes, and the pattern designer very kindly helped me out when I messaged them too.

I’m really pleased with how this has come together. The self striping yarn works really well with a pattern that doesn’t need sewing up at the end because the colour changes can continue seamlessly across. It would be much more difficult to try to match the stripes if each section was a different piece.

I wanted the patterning of the knitting to be the standout feature, so I went with very simple buttons. To try to protect the knitting from being pulled and strained by them I sewed each button with a backing button to help share the load.

I’m hoping that this little cardigan will get lots of wear, and should co-ordinate nicely with the grey and green outfits that I have sewn up too. I have a full ball of yarn left over, which I think would make a really lovely hat, and maybe some booties too. I might try to find out about knitting a hat in the round too!