Tuesday, 10 September 2013

One Sewlution attained!

You may remember that once upon a time, Karen put out a call for Sewing Resolutions (Sewlutions) to go in her jar, and I rashly suggested three projects that I've been delaying completing and that should, therefore, be completed by the end of the year.


Since then, I've made pyjamas, and tops, and project bags, and knit jumpers, and even (on the quiet, I'm sorry)... and there's been nary a peep of a curtain, or a coat, or a quilt. No progress at all since this was made two years ago (at least)

Which should be a surprise, or a lesson, or something, but is simply a sign of my disordered crafting and inability to finish sewing projects!

Until I finally decided that a certain Bank Holiday was the time to move furniture and create enough floor space to pin my quilt sandwich. Two hours, and all 120 curved safety pins I possess later, I had a sandwich roll... which sounds like it should be cake-based. No pictures of this stage, unfortunately, but here's the 'action' shot of quilting-in-progress.

Yes, the nights are drawing in, and yes, one of the lessons I learned (again) on this project is that when a very large piece of fabric is involved, my workspace is somewhat limited, and that affects how cleanly it passes through the machine. I still need to learn not to rush the quilting stage just because I don't enjoy it as much, so there are plenty of 'design features' in this quilting but it is, finally, done. And just in time for the colder nights to have me reaching for it!

Monday, 5 August 2013

From tiny acorns

This cardigan is probably the closest I'm ever going to get to the 'Sheep-to-Sweater' full project, in that the process began with a dyeing session, and not just a purchase. Stylecraft's Ethical Twist was (while it was available) one of my favourite yarns - I used it to make Manu (in cream) and Georgie (in the natural grey). [Oh, and apparently I have no decent photos of either of these - I will rectify this.]

 Having a bit of the grey left over, I decided to use it in a design with stripes (of which more at some point), only to discover that I didn't quite have enough. And it had been discontinued. Having searched the country's stashes, I found a small stock of the cream was still available, and persuaded Juliet to dye some of the 1kg bag I happened to come away with to match the grey.

Which left me with 800g of beautiful cream wool/alpaca DK. The only problem was the colour - however much I like the idea of natural undyed cream, I find I very rarely wear the garments I knit from it. Time to visit Juliet again, and play...

Meanwhile, an unexpected online raffle win from the Knitter slipped Coastal Knits onto my bookshelves, and a plan came together. So here, nine months after the yarn became green, and three months after I finished it, is my Gnarled Oak Cardigan. I really enjoyed knitting this - the only downsides were the three inches to be added to the body and sleeves (as usual), the ephemeral frustration of the bobble rows with a whole jumper hanging off your knitting needles, and my inability to make buttonhole rows work out, which resulted in a small fudge in order to have a buttonhole at the top neck-edge.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

I want it now!

My knitting life is often about slow, slow progress (I have just picked up a UFO which has been lingering for two whole years), and sometimes, the sewing is the same...

Sometimes, not so much. This make was more of an immediate fix. The problem: my office wardrobe was just too hot for the recent heatwave. The solution: make a top.

On Monday I was too hot; I spent Monday evening looking through old copies of Burda, and searching the interwebs for something that would suit the odd fabric remnants I've had hanging around for a while.

On Tuesday, I printed the pages of the pattern, used the office paper trimmer (in my lunch break, of course!) to trim them to the relevant tiles, stuck them together, cut out the pattern pieces, and cut out the fabric.

On Wednesday, I used my lunch break to get to the haberdashers and buy some matching bias-binding, I sewed up the pattern, taking care to faux-French-seam all the seams.

On Thursday, I wore it to work. Success!

So what was this pattern? The brilliant Colette patterns' Sorbetto top. A fantastically straightforward make that worked really well, and which, a couple of weeks on, is still working really hard in this heatwave! I did make some changes: I added some length (about an inch, but then I am tall), plus an extra 1.5cm 'seam' allowance to the shoulder seams, so the bust darts and neckline are lowered too. This has prevented any problems other people have noted re: tight armscyes (I'm conscious I have larger upper arms) and high bust darts, but has meant that there's a bit of gaping in the upper bust area. A final change was nothing to do with the comments I found online, and all to do with the limits of my fabric - I had just 1m of blue satin-backed dupion. So I added a central back seam, and bought my bias binding.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Late to the (pyjama) party

When Tasia brought out the Tofino pants pattern, and Karen suggested a rerun of the pyjama party, I thought - new pyjamas, new pear-shaped trouser pattern, new skills (piping, faux fly, finishing techniques) - lots of fun! So, I ordered the pattern and started reading Karen's lovely tutorials. And then life happened.

It wasn't so much that I forgot when the deadline was, as that my memory (failed to order fabric promptly), the weather (pre-washed fabric took ages to dry in the humidity, and circumstance (visitors, plus dog-sitting visit far from my machine) conspired to prevent me completing them on time...

But they are done, they were great fun to make, and I wore them for the first week to great acclaim. Since then, it's been too hot to think about full length pyjama bottoms - especially as the added bonus is that these are actually full length, and not the irritating ankle-flappers I tend to get when I purchase them. The joy of being able to curl up and not have a gap between sock and trouser hem is a very specific small pleasure.

Oh, and since if I'm buying fabric, playing with new techniques and patterns, and fitting trousers, I may as well dive into the deep end, I ended up making two sets.  (Please excuse the odd expression in this one!)

Details: the black pair use plain black cotton for the side panels and waist-band, white or cream cotton for the piping, and the black/white flamingo and star (described on the website as 'stork', but definitely more flamingo-esque in person) for the front and back panels and tie belt.

The blue pair use the same white or cream cotton for the piping and belt (yes, that does make 10m of handmade piping in this post), and the 'vintage navy' hummingbird (described as swallows) for the trouser panels.

Overall, this has been a fantastic experience, despite my tardiness, and I would recommend both the pattern (Tasia is fabulous, and these are patterns that look like my measurements - wow!) and the fabric store: Fabric Land has a unique website, but their stores are always tempting, and I've lost count of how many things I've made from their fabric. The telephone ordering service is something I've used more since moving to the 'country', and has always been very efficient and helpful - including calling me back on this occasion when one of the fabrics was out of stock, and matching a fabric they have in the depot to what I had bought in their shop when I underestimated the amount required to make 5 cravats for my wedding two years ago!

Monday, 18 March 2013

A Spring-like break

After my first 'proper' holiday in a very long time, I'm back and feeling rested and busy and full of inspiration. We've been to France (to avoid / celebrate a certain significant birthday: I seem to fall between Just Me and Odd Socks and Pretty Frocks in terms of how I'm feeling about this one, for all that it seems that I'm a few weeks older than either!), visiting Paris and Tours, catching up with good friends, and catching glimpses of a sunnier time. This was Saturday lunch-time in the Jardins du Luxembourg (where Marius and Cosette first meet), and the first properly warm day brought families, couples, old friends and me to the park. There were novel-readers, newspaper-readers, baguette-eaters, chess-players, and a knitter:

This knit may be full of spring green and leafy promise, but I'm afraid a glimpse is all you're getting: it's a secret knit for the moment.

And while I'm sharing glimpses - here're some catkins bringing a little hope and spring lightness to a beech grove in the gardens at Versailles. The very next week these same gardens were covered in snow, so I'm very very glad we saw them when we did!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Handmade not homemade

Not so long ago, Sewaholic posted a selection of notes about how to make your handmade items look less handmade. As she said, there's a fine line between "Did you make that?" (Wow, it's bespoke and you have skills) and "Did you make that?" (Because the skirt's hanging a bit funny, and I wonder if it's intentional), and sometimes, the more unique the item, the more likely it is that the general public will notice and comment on how unusual it is.

Our responses to such comments show a little of how complicated our response to and relationship our projects actually is. After all, we make pieces because we want to create something different, something unusual, something that might fit, so why panic or feel uncomfortable when someone notices? Are we worried they might judge our choice of hobby? Critique our work? After so much time and effort expended, of course we're protective of the outcome of our creativity, but I find my response also connects to more general anxiety about how I look, and a very broad concern that someone might spot that all I'm wearing is fabric (very Emperor's New Clothes).

Despite this, I find I can no longer accept buying items that will always fit badly, or be uncomfortable. I walk around shops thinking that I'd like top a with longer sleeves, or dress b in a blue version of that fabric, or longer, or more A-line. So I pretend I know what I'm doing with dress-making, and I play with fabric, and enjoy the process of knowing where the garment comes from (especially if I can use remnants in other projects). Sometimes, a pattern just works, and what in one fabric appears quirky and individual, in another becomes somewhat sophisticated and uniform. Sometimes, as Sewaholic says, simple is a disguise for the handmade.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

A Tour of the Oubliette

The Knitmore Girls recently referred to the collection of works that remain to be completed as in the oubliette, projects that have been pushed away to be forgotten, ideally in the dark, dank pits of their own misery. My work in progress basket is not quite such a dim place, since it is mostly inhabited by perfectly nice projects that have simply been put down for a moment when a deadline looms, or a different type of knitting is required. That said, when you run out of needles because you've got them all in other projects, and when you're contemplating making another set of project bags so that you'll have something to put the freshly-cast on piece of lacework into, it's probably time that some of those perfectly nice projects were brought into the light, shaken out a little, and aired for inspection.

With that in mind, here is a photo similar to the one I showed you just before Christmas (not for the monogamously knitting faint-of heart):

And here's a quick tour of what's in it:
A: My KnitNation 2011 project bag, holding a big project which is now happily completed, but awaiting a proper 'reveal'.
B: My made-by-me tetrahedron zipper bag, which contains Devon (by Cookie A) in EasyKnits Deeply Wicked (in a colourway called Grape); the cuff of one sock
C: A bag given to me by my mum, containing Daisy by Kim Hargreaves; really only just started (I had tension problems, and had to re-start, in my defence!)
D: One of my "Knitting Parlour" bags, which houses a stealth sock (my design); one cuff, but needing lots of concentration at this stage.
E: A made-by-me larger zipped bag, holding one of the two KTA projects that I didn't ever finish - the Nether Garments. I'm hoping to resurrect this as legwarmers, sometime.

Devon. Yes, it is that bright.

F: My second "Knitting Parlour" bag, which hides my first ever pieces of crochet. I came back from the workshop energised and inspired, and sat down and knit. I will pick this up at some point. I hope.
G: A carrier bag (see previous point about making new project bags) which houses some dyed-by-me yarn destined to become Laminaria. I started it, but realised I had too much going on.
H: Shudder. This is one of the first bags I made myself, and is definitely hiding. Hiding a design project that didn't quite work, and needs reworking. Possibly from scratch.
I: Happy bag! I love this project bag - it's my prototype 'large square-bottomed bag', and works really well, plus it's made out of a remnant of fabulous Kaffe Fassett fabric. And it's got my next big project in it: the Gnarled Oak Cardigan by Alana Dakos from Coastal Knits. Which I won in a Knitter contest. Knit out of some of the same yarn that I used for my Manu cardigan, but dyed by me with Juliet. This is about half done.

And finally,
K (oops, no J!): The Selkie project bag I bought from Old Maiden Aunt at KnitNation, which holds the remnants of my other Christmas knitting: Mini Cordell Christmas decorations, of which I made four. And have photos of: none.

So there you are: hardly full of monstrosities with unfortunate complexions, and yet, so many projects. I am working to reduce them. How about we visit the oubliette again in a little while, and see where we have got to?

Monday, 21 January 2013

My Money Where My Mouth is... In a Jar

An idle idea, in blogland, can sometimes become something rather larger. Karen of Did You Make That? decided that as part of her New Year's planning, she would create a jar of projects or promises, Sewlutions if you will, and track their progress on her blog. I don't know about you, but in the heady moments when 2013 seemed to stretch endlessly before me, I felt like I could achieve a great deal. So I threw my hat into the ring, and I now have not one, not even two, but three targets to meet before the end of the year.

Just to keep me honest, here they are:
1. Finish my 'Dutch Tiles' quilt. This quilt top has been languishing for much, much too long. On the one hand, I love piecing, and am a bit afraid of quilting. On the other, this large blue / white sheet comes in rather handy as a table-cloth at craft fairs... but enough's enough. I want it to be finished.

2. Make my Minoru jacket. I've seen so many of these looking great, and Karen herself recommends it as her favourite make of 2012, plus there are great tutorials and tips included in the Sewaholic sew-along pages , but I've got stuck with my fabric choice. I want to make the non-hooded version, in a teal / turquoise fabric, and I have the flannel lining to match... but I'm not sure where to go to find a slightly water-resistant (showerproof, perhaps) outer fabric. Any suggestions are welcome, but otherwise this might be waiting until I can make a trip to London.

3. Sort out the bedroom curtains. Experience making curtains I like? Check. Fabric for these curtains, washed and dried? Check. Blackout lining purchased and ready to go? Check. Enough floor space to cut out 3 x 2.5m curtains and hand-hem them before I take them to my machine? Sadly lacking. I'm hoping for a weekend when I'm not doing much else. Or a Bank Holiday. I suspect May might be a good time.


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A First Finished Object of 2013

After that brief glimpse of the chaos that is my works-in-progress basket (I've hidden it behind the sofa in the spare room / office now that it's an office again), I decided to focus my knitting time. For Christmas, a small batch of owls was created, which I'll share when I retrieve the pictures from the relevant camera, but as we weren't to see my family until Twelfth Night, there was one final gift that got put off until later. My sister now has a walk to work, and asked for a bobble hat to ward of the winter chill. My sister is a very cool person, and so a vital element of any pattern, particularly for a bobble hat, was a definite sense of style. A Ravelry search later, (DK, hat, female, knit, available for download or in my library) and I'd found my stylish knit: Tears of Bronze (Ravelry link) in Rico Fashion DK (German manufacturer's link). It turned out, one ball was plenty, both for the hat, and for the additional pompom!