Purl & Plain

When I posted the pattern for Laura's Cowl I had a comment that some people can only manage plain & purl stitch.  This was me a few years ago.  I just wasn't too good reading patterns until I managed to work out how to read charts.  But I thought maybe it would be fun to design a cowl using only these stitches.  After working out the math I came up with the "Purl & Plain Cowl". 

Download Plain & Purl Cowl


It works on the principle that if you add an extra stitch  to a number of stitches that can be divided equally you would get a spiral pattern.  In this case I came up with a simple pattern of knit 5 purl 2.  I knew that a good cowl size was around 120 to 125 stitches in 8ply or DK wool.  This led me to cast on 127 which worked well.

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I keep saying how I like Bendigo Woollen Mills wool.  With just the one 200g of wool I was able to make the beret, Laura's Cowl and 3/4 of this cowl.  All for just $11 AU.  That is really good value and the qualilty of the wool is first class.


The other problem I solved was how to keep my knitting materials and equipment together  and neat.  Now this might sound silly but I had bought a couple of plastic fabric containers from IKEA.  I was going to use them as rubbish bins when I sewed.  I put 2 x 200g balls of wool plus my needles and pattern into one of them, just to keep them all in one place and then being lazy just took my knitting out.  This little bag works wonders as a wool feeder.  No longer am I chasing my wool all over the floor and then I just put my knitting on top when I stop.  I have tried so many containers etc to hold my knitting and feed the wool but this is just so good.  I think I will try to make a fabric version of this.

A new cowl for my daughter

Sometimes I wonder why I knit for members of my family at all?  Non of them seem to take care of the items that I spend so much time constructing, let alone consider the amount of money I spend on good materials.  But they keep asking for more.

Laura's new cowl is a good illustration of what I mean.  I spent a lot of time and effort making her a hat and cowl.  She really liked them.  Took them into the bush on an expedition and then lent them to a some one, who hadn't brought enough warm clothing.  This person then lost them or forgot to pick them up when they moved on.  Now there was a request for a replacement but could I make one "with no holes in the pattern?"  In other words not use a lace pattern.  


This is the result.  It isn't as pretty as a lace cowl but it will be warm.  I made it in an 8ply wool called "Rustic" from the Bendigo Woollen Mills.  (The best quality wool at the best price bar non in the whole world.)  I'm sure it would work in any 8ply (double knitting) and as it doesn't need to fit like a cardigan or hat the gauge isn't really critical.


I have written out the pattern as a free download.   Download Laura's Cowl

N.B.  The method I used to cast on was to make the stitches by knitting between the stitches.


This gives a nice solid edge.  I replicated this at the cast off end by knitting into the back of the stitch .


The Mouse Pin Cusion

At a normal Children's Class day the assembly of the projects seems to be where we have all the hassels.  Everyone finishes around the same time and there is such a rush.  I have been looking at the Pin Cushion and can see that this is going to be one of those "bottlenecks" near the end of the class.  So, here I sit pre-assembling 40 odd mice.


That is 80 individual ears that have to be stitched then attached to the head and then 40 heads to be attached to bodies.  See what I mean about potential bottlenecks?   I am in the midst of all these little pieces so I thought I may as well put up the pattern for the mouse and a tutorial on how to make it. 

All the patterns and instructions are included in the Download - Pin Cushion but I thought I would show you some of the techniques I used that might make it easier to put together. Also a picture is a lot clearer than words.

The ears

Don't try to sew those tiny pieces separately, you will go mad.  What I do is trace the pattern pieces onto my double thickness of fabric and sew the seams BEFORE I cut out the pattern pieces.  Make sure you reverse at the beginning and end of each seam so that the pieces don't pull apart when you turn them through.


You could trim your seams and notch them to turn them through but this takes time.  Another way is to reduced the length of you stitch and then trim close to the seam.


I find that doing the seams this way makes it easier to turn through, in fact it is twice as quick as the traditional method. 


The trick with turning these small pieces it to turn your fabric at the seams and then partially turn them through . 


I then run the rounded end of a crochet hook around the seam and you have it finished. 

You don't have to hold them open just give them a shot of steam with the iron.  (I find that if I use a fabric with a high thread count like a batik it is a lot easier to handle.)


When joining the ears to the head I prepare the ears by ironing them down the middle.  This makes it easy to fold them in place. 



Just make sure you attach them to the back of the head with the side you want to see facing down to the right side of the head.



Joining the head and the body.

Really fiddly.  Getting it all set up before you stitch is the key to not having to unpick.  Pin the centres and then the sides together, and then pin again between the sides and the centre with the pin point towards the seam. 

This way you should be able to sew over the pins.   Also turn up a small amount of fabric around the base.  I find that finger pressing it does the job.  Doing this will make sewing the closing at the finish a breeze.  Because these pieces are small and curved they can be difficult.  If you have the head piece on top it is easier to sew because the larger body piece will stretch slightly.  Before you stitch check that those ears are going to be slightly apart at the centre.  Now is the time to fix it before you sew.

The rest of the construction is straight forward.  Put the two side seams together and sew by machine or by hand.  Turn through and stuff.  Match the centre of the body with the side seam and wip stitch close making sure you attach your tail first.

Continuous thread needle case

I don't know about you but there are times I get sick of continuously threading needles.  Like, when I am tacking a quilt or sewing paper piecing shapes by hand.  Then I saw some one with a continuous thread needle case and had to design one for myself.  I'm not sure what dimensions theirs was but I wanted one just to hold the thread and another that I could have the thread and a thimble.  So this is my take on the one I saw.


I have made mine from scraps of fabric and wadding together with old buttons for trim and some left over ribbon for the closure.  If you were going to buy the fabric a couple of fat 1/8ths would get you 2 needle cases.  I think I prefer the smaller version and this is the pattern included. For the wider version just make the pattern 1" (3cm) wider and if you think you want more then 10 needles extend the length.

You can down load Download Needle and Cotton holder with the free pattern here.

I used a main fabric and a contrast for the suffolk puffs.   I also used 45mm Clover puff maker, but I have included a pattern for this if you don't have one.  If you haven't used one of these tools there are lots of videos on You Tube to show you how but personally I have given up sewing puffs by hand the tool is just so quick and easy and every puff is the same as the one before and after it.  This is a link to a tutorial by Pat Sloan.  

So, I cut out my puffs, pulled them up, sewed the button in place in the middle and set them aside.


When making the tounge, on the inner facing piece I took my piece of flannel, with the edges pinked and stitched it into position using a straight stitch on my machine.


With my main fabric and lining, right sides together, and the wadding behind this, I stitched a 1/4" seam around the edge leaving an opening to turn the fabric through to the right side after trimming back the fabric. I then turned it through, and ironed it flat.  (very important, the ironing.)

Now I find that I like to add my ribbon into the seam after I have turned the fabric through.  This mean I have to undo a few stitches in the middle of the curved end and push my ribbon into position.  Then I stitch close to the edge all the way around.  This closes the turn through opening and attaches the ribbon.


Now it is time for hand stitching those puffs into position.  You want the button on the outside. Start at the straight edge corner of your tongue and any position on the puff and over sew the two edges together leaving enough of the puff un-sewn to allow you to put your cotton into the space created.  This will change according to the size of the cotton reel you are using.


On the second case I sewed the puff on the inside of the tongue picking up fabric from the puff and the inside of the tongue.


I found that this gave a neater finish but this is purely a personal preference.


Now thread up your needles with your cotton, do not cut the cotton, just thread all the needles continuously.  Now you are ready to go.  Take your needle and pull the cotton through to the length required before cutting the thread.  Continue like this with each needle and then start again.


These are very quick and cheap to construct and would make a great gift for a sewing friend and think of all the scraps you could use.

Zippers 3

Zippers with fabric added to the seam opening.

This is a pattern that I used when teaching year 8 students.  It was quick and easy. Two tabs of fabric are added to cover the ends of the zipper these become part of the side seams.
This is not as simple are the previous zipper insertions and requires that you tack the zipper into position.
I have included a PDF, complete with spelling errors .

Download No 2 Pencil Case

You can use this same method for inserting a zipper at the top of the pouch as well.

That is enough about zippers for a while, I will be flying back to Brisbane today.  There are still a number of other methods but I will return to this theme next month.

Zippers 2 b - Part 3

This pouch was made using patchwork fabric and it was lined with the same fabric as the strip inserted on the front and back panels.  (The pouch was made the same as 2b part 1)DSC08492

Because the fabric is a lighter weight I added an iron on pelum to the lining making it the height of the top hem and fusing in position.

After sewing the lining it was slip stitched into position.

Lining a bag like this looks good on the inside,


But I find there is a slight bulge at the opening end even when you allow extra fabric to get around the end of the zipper.   I am probably being too critical as other say "what bulge."


Zippers 2 b - Part 2

The next 3 pouches are all lined.  Two have bias binding covering the seams, one woven fabric the next paper based fabric and the other has a separate lining slip stitched into position.  The different linings all have differing effects on how that zipper sits.


Inserting the zipper is the same for each of these pouches,  (See previous posts.) it is the finished achieved that is different.

Pink Check - The zipper was top stitched and I used a light weight patchwork fabric for the lining .  I then wrapped the seams in a bias strip.  You could use a commercial bias or make your own.  (This is a great little video tute on how to do that.)

I treat binding this seam the same way I would bind a quilt, only the seam is a lot smaller and the bias will stretch around the corners.  At the non opening end you will find that the bound seam sits well under the zipper.

 At the other end I trim the seam end on an angle before binding the seam.


Because the seam is sewn 1cm past the clips the zipper has a good finish.


The lining in the blue and white pouch was a sewable paper fabric.  This was the easiest to work with but I haven't been able to source it since.  (I should have bought more.) You don't have to cut the paper on the bias just use a strip, with no hem allowance and sew over that seam.  The paper doesn't have the nice appearence of the woven fabric but it does sit better.


Zippers 2 b - Part 1

Top Opening zipper

I was going to make one post for this but typepad doesn't want to save it so I will break it into sections.


The next four pouches are all very similar.  The zipper sits up proud above the top edge and each is inserted using the same method.  The difference lies in how they are finished.  The size has been dicated by the zipper that I am using and I have used a variety of fabric weighs.


As this zipper is meant to be seen the stitching is closer to the seam edge revealing more of the zipper.   This fabric is unlined so I have applied an iron on interfacing first. 

Place the main fabric and zipper edge, right sides together and stitch in position using a zipper foot.

Turn to the right side, press and top stitch along this edge.  Repeat for the other side. I use my zipper foot to do this so that I can stitch close to the edge of the fabric.  Because of the length of this zipper, one end will be closed so open the zip so that you can sew the top stitching.


Place both the front and back pieces right sides together and pin.  It you need to square up your fabric do it now.  Pin the zipper so that the top edges are parrellel to each other.


The side seam needs to cross the zipper teeth 1cm past the end of the teeth at both ends.  Sew the side seams starting at the bottom edge, reversing at the begining.  As  you near the zipper slow down you machine speed, stitch across the teeth, reverse back to just below the zipper.   Depending on how rough you are going to be with this zipper in opening and closing it you may want to reverse a couple of times to secure it firmly but make sure you finish you thread below the opening.

 So that this end of the zipper closes completely I fold the ends of the seam over and catch it in the zipper.  You have to be careful doing this as sometimes the fabric is just too thick and you end up with a bulge.  You have to decided between the buldge and not pushing the end of the zipper inside when you close it.


Trim back your seams and neaten.  Turn to the right side and iron. With this weight of fabric the zipper sits perfectly.




Zippers 2a

 Top opening zippers

I found this small piece of embroidery in an opportunity shop and thought I could use it as a pencil case.  That meant a top opening zipper with a lining.

The zipper was inserted the same way as No 1 a,b,c, but I didn't have room for error because of the size of the peice of embroidery. Also I find that some students do not feel confident enough to stitch the zipper between two pieces of fabric, the main fabric and the lining, so I have broken this down into easier steps.

Centre you zipper with the motive on the front, in this case the embroidery, and with right sides together stitch the zipper in position.


Pin the lining piece in position and turn your work over and stitch using you last row of machine stitching as your guide. Repeat these steps for the back.


Turn to the right side, iron flat.




At this point square up your piece , making sure your zipper in open a short way first.


Turn you piece to the wrong side, with the right sides of the main fabric together and the same with the lining.  Pin the ends of the zipper so that when you sew around the perimeter, leaving an opening at the base of the lining, the zipper ends match up. When you reach the zipper reverse stitch over the teeth to make sure the opening is secure.  (Remember that zipper should be partly open.)


Before you turn it through to the right side and stitch closed the opening in the lining, snip out the teeth of the plastic zipper up to the one before your stitching at the pull end.    This end has a lot of bulk and buckles when turned to the right side.  Removing these teeth will reduce this.


Press flat and attach a pull to the zipper for decoration.


Zippers - 1 c

I found that the PDFs I put up yesterday were not viewing very well in Firefox.  I could overcome this by viewing them with Adobe but thought I would post another variation on this zip insertion using two piece of fabric. 

Again this is a front opening zipper.  The front fabric is cut in two and the raw edges of the fabric were neatened first.


This zipper has been inserted (using a zipper foot on the machine)in about the same position as the other two,  that is lining up the edges of the right sides of the fabric and zipper and stitching in position.   You need to decide just how much of the colour at the sides of the zip you want to show.  Stitching up close will reveal a little, closer to the outer edge will reveal more. DSC08470

Turn to the right side and iron flat remembering that this is a nylon zipper and if the heat is too high it could melt the teeth, even steam can distort the teeth so be careful!

On the right side, top stitch close to the edge on both sides of the zipper.  This zipper was a little long for the opening so I have stitched across the teeth to secure it and will remove the metal clips before neating the edge.  (You can shorten any nylon zipper by sewing across the teeth.)


Place the right side of the back and front fabrics together and pin in position. At this point it is a good idea to square up your fabic. 

Using a 1.5cm seam allowance sew around the perimiter and then neaten.  If you are not sure how to use the sewing guides on you machine mark the seam allowances with a pencil or washout marker.   Make sure you open you zipper a little before you do this or it could lead to an episode of bad language.


Turn through to the right side and press flat.


NOTE: I have used a furnishing fabric which is heavier than patchwork fabric.  If using patchwork fabric apply an iron on interfacing first.