Elegance & Elephants Spring Showers Jacket – Pattern Review

I had the good fortune this week to be asked to test again for Elegance & Elephants.

You already know how much I love Heidi’s patterns.  You’ve seen them often enough here.

This time it was Boy’s turn to be my muse for Heidi’s latest delightful offering, the Spring Showers Jacket.

E&E jacket

The Pattern

This is a really cute unisex jacket in sizes 2 – 12. I made the size 4/5.  The PDF comes together really quickly and easily and each size is nicely nested to enable you to cut or trace your required size without having to squint! The instructions are well written with clear photos holding your hand every step of the way. The pattern has some sweet touches like the patch pockets with flaps:

Spring Showers Jacket 2

and a cute visor on the hood!

Spring Showers Jacket 3The Fabric

I chose this fabulous navy camo cotton drill  from Minerva Fabrics for the outer shell and a plain cotton, also from Minerva for the lining.  I lined the sleeves in a matching poly to make the jacket easier to slip on and off.

Spring Showers Jacket 5

What do I think?

No surprises… I love this pattern.  Heidi has done it again.  This is going to be a firm favourite Chez Stitches.

Spring Showers Jacket 1

I’m thrilled with this jacket.  This is the sort of garment I’d happily spend good money on, but am even happier to have made myself.

My little man is 5 but small for his age.

Spring Showers Jacket 7

This means he’s got lots of room to put a sweater underneath on cooler days, and will also get lots of wear out of this.

He loves it too.

Spring Showers Jacket 8

Bonus!

Spring Showers Jacket 6_edited-1

The pattern is available now.  If you’ve got small people I can really recommend this pattern.  I’ve got a feeling it won’t be too long before I’m making a pink or red version for a certain little lady.  She’s dropping huge hints to that effect. And who am I to argue?

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this pattern in return for my testing of the pattern and subsequent feedback.  All opinions are, however, entirely my own.  

By Hand London – Kickstarter

I can’t believe I haven’t made a By Hand London pattern yet.  I must be the only kid on the block who hasn’t.  But I was intrigued to hear that they have a Kickstarter project underway at the moment to fun an amazing fabric on demand service.

As well as offering a tightly curated gallery of exclusive designs, working closely with and championing emerging designers and students, you guys will also be able to upload and print your very own, completely unique, custom fabrics.

Oh my stars and godfathers!

How cool is that?

They are nearly halfway to the funding pledges they need to make this happen. If you’d like to know more, and pledge your support, click here.

I’m in.  Are you?

Happy socks

These are happy socks in more ways than one.

I'm so happy with the matched stripes!

I’m so happy with the matched stripes!

The colour palette is very spring like and makes me hopeful that soon Spring will arrive in more than name.

Happy socks

Also, they are knitted in Wendy Happy 4ply.  The yarn is 75% bamboo and 25% nylon and have been a delightfully squishy knit.  A bit splitty, yes, but not annoyingly so.  And a bit prone to tangle in the ball, but sorting that out is work for husbands…or mine at least, he’s got far more patience with these things than I.

Last but not least, a new pair of socks always puts a smile on his face, and that makes me happy too.

Happy socks

See…happy socks indeed!

Lekela blouse – pattern review and toile

Have you heard of Lekela patterns?

I’ve been aware of them for quite some time but I’ve never taken the plunge and tried them out. Originally their website was more than a little messy and their ordering system the same, and although I liked the look of some of their patterns, I really couldn’t be bothered faffing around with it all.

However they’ve recently upped their game and the site it much cleaner, more easily navigable, and the prices are super low.

I paid $2.69 for pattern 5098, which is this blouse pattern:

Blouse With Wide SleevesI chose this pattern because it’s very similar in style to a RTW blouse I’m wearing to death, that I’d like to replicate, and that I’d like to become part of my planned suite of Wardrobe Architect inspired TNT patterns.

And, frankly, at $2.69 I can afford to take a punt on this…other than a bit of time and some muslin fabric, I’ve nothing to lose.

Buying the pattern

Obviously it’s really easy to buy a PDF pattern.  5 minutes and the thing is in your inbox and waiting to be printed.

Lekela is that simple but you also get the opportunity to choose whether you’d like your pattern with or without seam allowances, which is pretty cool.  Also you get to input your own measurements so that the pattern can be adjusted accordingly.

In theory this is just bloody marvellous.  But don’t get all excited just yet…you’ll see why in a moment.

The PDF

As I’ve mentioned before, I really don’t mind the whole process of print/stick/trace that is your lot if you order a PDF pattern.  Even adult patterns.  I pour a glass of wine, arm myself with scissors, magic tape and a bit of space at the table and crack on. It’s especially fun if I’ve got episodes of The Archers to listen too.

So that’s what I did.

And I wished I’d had more wine.

I’ve had experience of poorly tiled PDFs before but nothing on this scale. Firstly there are only guidelines at the side margins to show where you need to trim the paper to fit together….nothing at the top or bottom margins.

Secondly there are no guide marks to show where the tiled pages should connect to the one next to it.  So you’re trying to match the actual cutting/sewing lines of the pattern piece.

That wouldn’t be so bad if they actually line up…but I had to do some serious jiggery pokery to make that happen.

I know you get what you pay for but, seriously, this was ridiculous.  If you were a newbie sewer, or new to the whole PDF malarky, this could really be problematic for you.

The instructions

Think Burda.  ‘Nuff said.

The Toile

Having thrown the pattern in the corner to teach it some manners, I came back to it refreshed the next day to cut and fit the toile.

This pattern should be used as a teaching tool in every sewing class to show the reason why you make a toile.

Here’s a spectacularly hideous photo of me wearing the toile cut straight from the pattern with no alterations.  Bear in mind that I input my measurements for this:

2014-03-20 17.43.46

It’s just awful.  It’s waaaaaaaaay to big,  I know I’m starting to lose weight but I’ve not lost that much overnight! (Oh, I wish!)  Also, the neckline doesn’t reflect the illustration, and overall it’s too long.

This is the second toile after some adjustments:

2014-03-20 17.41.45

Toiles are so flattering…but this is so much better…and I’ve tweaked the pattern a little more after looking at this picture.

My alterations:

  • Removed 2″ from the centre front and centre back.  I crossed checked this against the inspiration blouse and it was clear that all the excess fabric was in that area.
  • Widened the neckline, again using my RTW blouse to check the sizes.
  • Dropped the neckline by about an inch.
  • Lowered the bust dart by about 1/2 inch.
  • 1/2 inch forward shoulder adjustment.
  • Hollow chest adjustment
  • Rounded back adjustment
  • 1″ removed from the hem

The forward shoulder/rounded back/hollow chest adjustments are standard fare for me, but I’ll admit to being disappointed that, having given specific measurements, the overall size of this blouse was so far off the mark.

I didn’t fit the sleeve for this muslin as there is a lot of volume to allow for mobility and I’m really pleased with the fit of the armhole.  However I will ‘walk’ the armscye and sleeve head before I cut any fabric…just to be sure one will fit the other!

So…what do I think of Lekela patterns?

I think in principle this is a great idea.  The model for this website is obviously low price/high volume.  $2.69 is a ridiculously low price to pay for a sewing pattern, but they’ve cut right back on the instructions and everything is obviously generated by the software.  Once you’ve done the basic pattern in one size, and an illustration, I’m making a fairly educated guess that everything else is automated.

However, and it’s a big however, there are still a lot of kinks to iron out.  The fit is way off and the PDF tiling is atrocious…the worst I’ve ever experienced.

I wouldn’t recommend these for novice sewists, but if you’re comfortable hacking a pattern around to get the fit, then go for it.  These patterns cost less that a small takeaway coffee so it’s a tiny investment.

I’m hoping to get a sewing day tomorrow and start actually cutting out the fashion fabric.  I’ll be using a super cheap, but really pretty poly from Abakhan for this pattern’s first proper outing.  I’ll let you know how I get on.

Wish me luck!

ps…please ignore the absolute tip that is the sewing loft at the moment.  We keep saying “let’s go and finish packing the loft up” and then settling down with a glass of wine and a movie.  It’s just such a miserable job that The Husband would rather lift tiled floors than do it, and I need him to dismantle the heavy stuff before I can do any more.  So it sits, like an albatross atop the house. And we drink wine and ignore it!

Flowers

IMG_0440_edited-1

This afternoon the menfolk headed off to the supermarket whilst the girls got Button’s homework done.

IMG_0455

As they passed the flowers, my wonderful little man turned to his daddy and declared “I want to buy some beautiful flowers for my beautiful mummy”.

IMG_0450

Who knew that a simple bunch of supermarket flowers could be the most beautiful blooms in the world?  And bring such joy to this mummy’s heart?

 

Larry

The Sweater of Doom is finished.

Hurrah!

I sewed the final seam on Saturday afternoon so it was ready just in time for the Mr’s birthday on Sunday.  This was a result…but more good luck than good judgement ;-)

He is delighted with the sweater and promptly pronounced it to be cosy and warm, which is a blessing here at the moment because although Spring has sprung, it’s still cold and wet (though nothing like our Canadian and North American cousins have been experiencing, so I’ll shut up). He also declared that it’s his favourite knitted-by-me sweater, which makes all my cursing worth while.

But enough of my waffling…here’s what Larry looks like on him:

Larry by PendleStitches

Larry_PendleStitches

Larry_PendleStitches

Pattern:

Larry by Berrocco Design Team – available free on Ravelry

larry_lg_small2

Yarn:

Twilleys of Stamford Freedom Spirit Chunky in colourway Dignity.

Pattern review:

This is a super, simple pattern that could be knitted by any adventurous beginner. If you can cast on and off, knit, purl, do simple decreases and pick up stitches, you can knit this sweater.

It’s also the perfect thing to knit in front of the TV because of it’s simplicity.

The end result is a rugged, casual sweater that is a great wardrobe basic.

Things I’d do differently next time:

  • Make sure I had enough yarn!  Having to alternate between old and new yarns because they were different dye lots really slowed me down.
  • Not sit on one of my lovely wooden needles halfway through, snapping it and ending up having to dig an old pair of metal needles out of the needle jar so I could crack on and get this finished.
  • Realise sooner that this needle change would affect the tension and that was why, even though I’d counted the rows on the sleeves, the second sleeve was shorter than the first.  Doh!
  • Not use recycled yarn.  As this is a loosely spun yarn it was quite keen to stick to itself which made the knitting process less fun.

Would I recommend this pattern:

Absolutely.  I can definitely see another one of these being knitted next winter simply because he loves it so much.

The Most Perfect Chocolate Fudge Cake

As it was The Husband’s birthday at the weekend I made what is now the traditional Birthday Cake for Big Boys Chez Stitches.

chocolate fudge cake

It dawned on me this morning that I hadn’t shared this recipe with you.

chocolate fudge cake

Which, is, quite frankly, completely unacceptable.

And I’m surprised you’re still speaking to me.

So, in the anticipation that once you’ve baked this all will be forgiven, here, dear reader is the recipe.

For the cake:

  •  ½ cup unsweetened cocoa (Green & Black’s)
  •  ½ cup boiling water and ½ cup cold water
  • 1½ cups sifted cake flour
  • ½ tspn baking soda
  • ¼ tspn baking powder
  • ½ tspn salt
  • 120g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1¼ cups brown caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tspn vanilla extract
  • For the fudge frosting:

  •  1½ cups brown caster sugar
  • 1 cup double cream
  • 6 oz 70% cocoa chocolate, chopped
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tspn vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 1750C/350F.     Grease and flour 2 x 8” cake tins.

Place the cocoa in a bowl and pour in the boiling water.  Stir to dissolve the cocoa, add the cold water and leave to cool slightly.

In a medium sized bowl using and electric mixer beat the butter until fluffy (about 1 min) then gradually beat in the sugar.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Add the vanilla extract and beat until light and fluffy (1-2 mins).

Add the dry ingredients and the cocoa alternately, beginning and ending with dry ingredients and beating well.  You should have a lovely smooth, chocolatey batter at this point.

Divide the batter between the two tins, smooth the tops and bake for 25-30 mins until cooked.  (Timing is really important and makes all the difference to the cake so, please, please, please, be careful, and don’t over bake.  If it’s slightly underdone you’ll just get the most wonderful fudge brownie texture.)

Cool the cakes in their tins for at least half an hour, then turn out onto a wire rack.  If the cake sinks a little don’t panic, the frosting will fill any gaps.

To make the frosting heat the sugar and cream in a large saucepan over a moderate heat and, stirring constantly, bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 mins without stirring. It will be slightly volcanic but don’t worry…this is ok. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate, butter and vanilla, stirring until the butter and chocolate have melted.

Turn into a bowl and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.  Refrigerate until thickened and a good spreading consistency, stirring frequently.

Resist all temptation to sit with a spoon, the bowl of frosting and the box set of Game of Thrones.

Once cool slather one cake with a good thick layer of the frosting, then sandwich the second cake on top. Cover the top and sides with the remainder of the frosting and refrigerate to set the fudge completely. Remove from fridge at least half an hour before serving to give the frosting time to soften before eating.  

Do not be put off by the length of the ingredient’s list, or by the fact that it’s cobbled together from American and Metric measures.  Or, indeed, by what might be perceived as a certain, shall we say, faffiness, in the actual making.

This is a Really Simple Cake to pull together (I made the chocolate sponges whilst I prepped breakfast on Sunday morning and the fudge frosting whilst nursing my 3rd cup of tea and a hangover, it’s that simple).

The results belie the lack of effort and are really quite spectacular.  One recipient of a slice professed it to be better than the chocolate cake at Harrods.  I don’t know if that’s true, but I’ll stand by my declaration that this is The Most Perfect Chocolate Fudge Cake and deserving of the capital letters.

IMG_9586_edited-2I’d love to hear if you agree.

Topsy Turvey

Well, it’s been a mad old week or two here.  The Husband arrived home from work about 10 days ago with wine and no job.  His company had imploded and made him redundant.

Thankfully he’s very skilled at what he does and his market sector is buoyant so we are not remotely phased by this.  We spent the first night drinking the wine and toasting all the reasons this was a great thing to happen and the opportunities it opens up for us.

Obviously, I’m making the most of having him home and ‘we’ have made a start on the renovations.  The first thing ‘we’ have to do is lift all the floors.

Give a man a hammer....

I cannot tell you how much mess tiled floors make when they come up.  There is dust EVERYWHERE. But, the tiles were cracked and ready to be replaced so this rewire is a blessing in disguise.  I hasten to add that I had nothing to do with any of this.  It’s all The Husband and Pa SIL.  I’ve just been supplying tea, sandwiches and cake!

The hallway floor was lifted last week

They have been working like Trojan’s to get this done.  The kitchen will be completely cleared this week and then there’s only the living room to do.  I say ‘only’ as it’s laminate not tile BUT there are 7 floor-to-ceiling bookcases to pack up and remove before we can get to the floor.

I let him have the weekend off!  It was his birthday yesterday, after all.  We had a wonderful day with family and cake, but I was a little shabby from far too much red wine on Saturday night, so forgot to take photos.  I did, however, finish the Sweater of Doom just in time, and he absolutely loves it.  So, I’ll get photos of it this week and share.

Right, I’m off to toile a Lekela pattern for myself.

Blouse With Wide Sleeves

My wardrobe is decidedly bare and I need some tops.  I’m hoping to get the first one done this week.  Fingers crossed!

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