Hello! Welcome!

I'm Heather McGarrigle and this is my blog - a colourful celebration of culture, crafting and creativity in Northern Ireland and beyond.

I got 99 problems but a stitch ain't one...

I got 99 problems but a stitch ain't one...

I'm sorry, I couldn't resist the title...

I've been a bit busy with work recently, hence the blog silence, but I've also been busy making stitch progress - in sewing

and

knitting!

I finally broke the Singer - in the 'taming a wild horse' way rather than the 'SNAP! Oooops...' way, thankfully. And here's what I made - ta daaaaaa!

I call it the Grannypunk bag - still a work in progress, but I'm quite pleased with its a-bit-wrong prettiness.

It's just a pillowcase, folded over and hemmed along the two top edges, then turned wrong sides together and sewn up the sides. I made a handle and a flower from some scrap denim and then just went a wee bit mental with fabric pens and paint, badges and stick on jewels.

I've also taken up knitting again after an 18 year hiatus and with a littlelot of help from my very patient auntie and cousin, I am now able to knit more than two consecutive rows without dropping a stitch. And I learned to knit stripes!

I'll start with the sewing. You may remember a rather manic blog post at the end of August called 'Just...Sew!' in which I listed all the things I had done right with the Singer - threaded the needle, pulled through the bobbin thread, played about with tensions and stitches-per-inch - and still couldn't get a stitch out of the thing. What I didn't do was...correctly select the stitches-per-inch.

Revisiting the manual for what felt like the zillionth time, my eyes suddenly caught a few words I had managed - a zillion times, evidently - to miss.

The manual for the Singer 99k is fabulous; old fashioned but comprehensive, with 56 pages of instructions and diagrams taking you from a needle size chart (to show you which needles should be used with which threads and fabric types) right through to using fashion aids such as the buttonholer, blind stitcher and bias gauge.

A family friend recently described the Singer as a "workhorse" that'll sew virtually anything. Indeed, the needle chart informs me a 19 or 21 needle, together with a "40 to 60 linen, or very coarse cotton thread" will allow you to sew "Bags, Coarse Cloths, Canvas, Duck, Heavy Goods of any texture".

You can sew...whaaat?!

But I digress... there are several chapters in the manual dedicated to getting you set up and ready to sew with the machine. It takes you through setting the needle, threading the machine, winding the bobbin and preparing for sewing.

The secret to unlocking the machine for me lay in the chapter about regulating stitch length. Below is a pic of the stitch indicator on my machine.You slide that little lever up and down to select how many stitches you want to do per inch - you adjust it according to the thickness and type of fabric, eg. a heavier fabric will probably need fewer stitches per inch to stop bunching.

The final piece of the puzzle for me was to simply....tighten the little screw on that lever.

Machine doesn't work.

Machine works.

THAT'S IT. That's all I needed to do to go from Basil Fawlty to Betsy Ross. (yep, I googled "famous seamstress"...)

I haven't really left myself much space to talk about the knitting, have I? Well, in a nutshell, my cousin Joan and Auntie Liz gave me a refresher course last week in how to cast on and get knitting again in a basic garter stitch, and also taught me a few new tricks, such as how to knit your first row so it's not just a row of unravelly loops and how to knit a new colour in so you get strrrrrripes :)

Here are a few pics of my progress so far as I learn to knit a baby blanket. Far from perfect but it's good practice - I'll get there eventually. I'll blog in more detail about the knitting very soon. When I haven't dedicated 2,000 words to Singer stitch selection perhaps...

Nice n' neat

And...not so much

Wine, dine and my not-exactly-grand design

Wine, dine and my not-exactly-grand design

A blanket fan...

A blanket fan...