Monday, 29 April 2013

Why do we love Rico Wool so much?

  Sewing and knitting are back in fashion (to my mind they were never out of fashion). People are starting to realise that creating your own clothes and accessories is without doubt the finniest way to express themselves. If you are tempted to take up kitting and crochet there are many knitting books and crochet books out there to guide you.

What many people  new to knitting and sewing may not realise is that you can create truly dazzling and unique things with only basic techniques. My waistcoats often receive compliments  but the pattern is basic, it's the choice of fabrics that sets them apart. And so it is with knitting. Rico do a huge range of yarns than enable to create breath taking tops, bags scarves, hats and so much more using pretty basic techniques. The secret is in the yarn!

Rico Creative Cotton
The crochet and craft yearn. Rico Creative Cotton is the yarn of choice for making household items as well as the popular Patchwork Family Crochet animals. knitting  as well as crochet. It forms a firm fabric with an even tension and is very comfortable to wear.

£1.99 for 50g

Rico Essentials Cotton Lurex
A fine cotton yarn, however this also has metallic lurex thread giving your project a glittering effect.

£3.69 for 50g

Rico Essentials Merino
An ultra fine DK (double Knit). Easy to knit with this yarn is renowned for giving very even knitting.

£3.99  for 50g

Rico Creative Pompom Print 
One of the more unusual yarns out there.  Useful for knitting truly unusual scarves or very cute tops and blankets.

Rico Creative Big Moment
Just one of these giant 200g balls will give you a beautiful scarf. The soft thick yarn subtly changes colour along it's length giving your work a soft cuddly and dreamy feel to it.

£14.99 for 200g

Rico Creative Micro Print
Another colour changing yarn. This acrylic yarn makes light and comfortable clothes  that are also easy to care for.

£4.99 for 100g

Rico Creative Reflection 
A light weight shimmering thread, available in regular or colour changing.
Clothes knitted from this thread take on a  beautiful  ethereal quality as the glimmer and shimmer in the light.

£3.49 for 50g

Rico Creative Filz Print
A strange little yarn. it has a very lose twist to it. Designed to be knitted up and the washed to turn it into felt.

£2.99 for 50g

Rico Creative Loopy-Pompom
Combining loopy yarn with pompom yarn.
Perfect for lightweight scarves for the spring and summer. In the brighter colours this also makes fantastic clubwear!

£6.99 for 100g

As you can see there are many types of yarn out there, each with their  own unique uses giving very different results. If you are new to knitting and crochet, or if you want to expand your horizons in the realm of crafting , we recommend just getting a few balls of yarn and playing. Playing around with fabrics and yarns is not only fun, it's the best way to learn and discover new techniques.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Knitting, Circler Needle or Double Point Needles?

I've been sewing for over a decade now and have lost count of the number of wedding dresses and waistcoats I've brought into the world. However I do occasionally have a go at knitting. Although as a bit of a nerd I tend to make Tom Baker era Doctor Who scarf when ever I can.

 Knitting did not always come naturally to me though. Before I only ever used wool on my loom,  for making medieval belts and cords.

After looking into knitting more I found out many of my friends are accomplished knitters (including many guys. Boys love gadgets and knitting is full of them).

One subject that has come up in knitting conversations regards two different techniques for tubular knitting. Some friends like to use a circular  knitting needles  others like to use a selection of double pointed needles. 

The Case for Double Point Needles.
When you first see double point needles you may be forgiven for wondering how on Earth you can use these to knit a tube. When  I first saw them I thought they were  beefed up toothpicks.

Double point needles are the traditional way of sewing a tube, such as  a sock. As many of my friends are historical re-enactors  they have chosen this method to knit socks and snoods. The needles are used to hold stitches in place whilst another needle is added for knitting more stitches.

Aside from just looking impressive there are some advantages over this older (and some may say trickier) method. 

Double Point Needles are easier to store

Double Point Needles offer you more control. Circular needles can normally only be used for one size of tube with a circumference  slightly larger than the needles you use. (there are ways around this, but they tend to negate the extra ease of using circular needles)

Circular needles don't tend to come small enough for socks.

If you are worried about the wool slipping off the needles then you can use commercially available stoppers (or make some out of corks). Whilst popping these on and off your needles can slow down knitting they can help someone new to DPN's to keep control of their wool. 

Learning DPN knitting and turning a heel at the same time may be daunting, so start making a simple tube scarf before going on to socks.

The Case for Circular Knitting Needles.

I have blogged about circler knitting needles before. (click here). A circular needle is in fact two needles joined together by a length of nylon or other smooth cord.

You can use these needles for more than knitting tubes. You can use the length of cord to help manage a larger flat panel as well as for knitting tubes.

Many people find knitting tubes with circler needles less complicated than with double points. The wool is certainly easier to control!

However as I  said before, smaller tubes such as socks need smaller needles and these may be very hard to find. 

In my opinion if you are making a sweater or other large project then the circular needles will give you constant and speedy results. However it is worth learning double point needle knitting for smaller tubes.
What do you think?

Friday, 12 April 2013

Prom season.

There are many good reasons to sew your own garments and for everyone these reasons can be different ;

Ensuring the perfect fit

Expressing your own sense of style

Requiring a specific colour pallet

Only wishing to use specific fabrics for ethical or health reasons

"Cosplaying" or re-enacting (and therefore the clothes simply don't exist anywhere)

Sewing is fun and rewarding!

To save money.

Money is at the bottom of the list for a reason. It is not always cheaper to sew your own clothes than it is to buy them. At least this is true for "budget" brands of clothes. Supermarkets often sell jeans cheaper than the denim would cost you to make your own. However you have to compare like with like. Your hand crafted jeans would be far superior than just about any denim jeans on the open market.

  At the higher end of fashion sewing your own really does save you a LOT of money. Evening dresses, bridal wear and prom dresses are a lot cheaper to make than they are to buy. By sewing your own prom dress you will not only have something truly unique, that nobody else at the prom, or even the country will have, but you will also save a lot of money.

A simple guide to prom dress sewing.
Following these simple steps will ensure sewing your prom dress will be stress free and enjoyable.

Step one. Choose the correct pattern. Our previous blog on patterns can be found here.  All major pattern companies have designs suitable for prom wear. Some have specific prom dress categories   however most elegant evening wear will look amazing at a prom.

Step Two. Ensure you have the correct size. As I've said before, patterns work on different sizes than the shops so measure yourself up before buying your pattern. It really is worth spending the time to alter a pattern to fit you correctly, the pattern guide will explain how to do this for each pattern.

Step Three. Make a mock up out of muslin or calico in the UK.  The mock up will help you work out if the pattern is fitting you correctly  We use muslin not only because it is cheap but because it is light and you can see the weave of the fabric easily. Gingham fabric where the checks are woven into the fabric instead of just printed on is also ideal.  As a result if the fabric is straining a little you can see it immediately  and then adjust the pattern accordingly  If you use a heavier stiffer fabric then the fabric will not "give" making it much harder to work out where on the pattern you need to make alterations.

Step Four.  Select your fabric. For many this is the most fun part of creating your own clothes. There are many style guides on the Internet to help you decide if you should wear patterns or plains as well as what colour pallet suits you. Five minutes checking these out can help you look truly radiant on the big night. Many hair dressers are also beauticians, so you could even ask for their help on what colours will flatter you the most.
  Satin always looks beautiful  however there are many different sorts out there and each has it's own uses.

Liquid Satin is very well named. This satin glistens and has a slick look. It looks stunning when flat and is perfect for a very structured garment. It drapes well when hanging straight down and also pleats well.

This prom dress I made last year uses liquid satin with an Organza overlay.

Acetate Satin is another very shiny satin. It tends to be a thinner fabric and whilst suitable for firm interfaced panels it does not hang as well as the Liquid Satin  Perfect  for firm bodices or simpler skirts however sleeves can be tricky.

Crepe backed Satin  Is most  peoples idea of a satin. The backing of the satin is "creped" or made of thousands of tiny little crinkles.  The end result of this is the satin truly shimmers as it catches the light at hundreds of different angles. This fabric flows beautifully and is perfect for "floaty" dresses. However pleats tend not to retain  a knife edge like sharpness to them.

Duchess Satin is without a doubt my favourite satin. A heavy weight satin with an understated "matt sheen" look about it. Pleats retain their sharpness when ironed into this fabric and it's weight lends any garment an air of substance. In my mind it's a good all round satin for sewing.

  However you don't have to take my word for it. Pop into Fabric8 or your local fabric shop and play with the fabric and decide for yourself which ones are more suitable for your project. The one thing We often say though is for prom dresses you should avoid satins that are too thin and flimsy. Other wise your hard work will result in you looking like you're wearing a nightie , and not a beautiful couture gown.

There of course other fabrics suitable for prom,such as silk and velvet. As you can see in the picture  of the dress I made, organza and chiffon can be used to add an extra special touch to your dress.

Step Five Check your tools. You will be saving a lot of money making your own prom dress (as well making sure you look fabulous). Don't ruin it by trying to cut your fabric out with a rusty pair of old bacon scissors.

Sharp scissors is a must. We recommend professional dressmaking scissors as well as a set of embroidery snips. Using the snips instead of your scissors to cut loss threads will triple the life time of your scissors. If your fabric is prone to fraying we also recommend Pinking Sheers.

Fresh Sewing Needles are essential for any new sewing job. A blunt needle will lead to skipped stitches, uneven sewing and can damage both your fabric and your sewing machine!

Dressmaking Carbon Paper and Tracing Wheel will cut hours of time from your sewing if you have complicated darts or need to mark where pleats are going on your dress. Using these cheap handy little hours saves you having to mark out with tailor tacks any relevant information on your pattern.

A Point Turner is a handy gadget for when you are turning a garment right side out. I've seen people try to turn a corner out with scissors only to punch through the fabric.

Step Six. Have fun! Enjoy the process at every step. Take your time and take a break every hour or so to rest your eyes (or back) I've been sewing for a decade now and always take a  ten minute break every  hour (it's in these times I learnt to juggle which is great for relaxation and stretching your back out).

And remember your local Fabric8 store is always there to help you.