Monday, 24 December 2012

Listen, the Snow is Falling

In the 1970s, when Christmas decorations tended to consist of paper chains and lanterns made of tissue honeycombs that would decompose in the loft before they were needed again, my sister and I started making paper snowflakes to stick on the windows. 

She was pretty nifty with the scissors, so hers were delicate with intricate shapes. I was a few years younger and not yet fully in charge of my hands, and my efforts were more like squashed snowballs with a few holes poked through. The memory of us sitting together, concentrating with scissors and covering the floor with little flecks of paper still cheers me.

Now we are in our forties, still making snowflakes.  There were none for several years when our respective paths wandered onto separate maps. But now, every year she sends me new ones to hang up at Christmas. I still have a quite a few from previous years.

This year I was organised enough to make and send some to her while she has a year off from the scissors and paper. It was a nice thing to do whilst watching the telly, although you need a bag on your lap to catch the confetti.

I also made some for our house. This is the sum total of my scissor-work this month:

This one got a bit mangled after being left on the sofa

Far right: one of my sister's snowflakes

These, along with some lights in the birch tree in the garden, are all we have in the way of Christmas decorations. It's our first Christmas as a smaller family; one of us is missing so it will be a quiet, reflective time. 

Little Creature is so excited about Santa; he and Mr K sent a letter up the chimney and received a confirmation text from an elf administrator at Santa's HQ. Things have changed a bit since we used to write our Christmas letters. 
From Burdastyle July 2012

December is hurtling by and I haven't even traced the pattern for this month's project.  I will be doing a short sleeve blouse pattern from Burdastyle using some printed lawn from stash. It looks easy enough; I think tracing the pattern will be the most time consuming part of the project as it's from the magazine (lots of different pattern pieces overprinted on one sheet).  Not very festive but there's not much fabric and this will come in handy at some point next year.

I've got under a week to do this to complete my year-long challenge....

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Almost Blue

My recent burst of creativity and motivation has collided with an unavoidable round of winter virus bingo, which has meant there have been lots of creative thoughts but not so much in the way of actually making stuff. 

Luckily, I finished the nomad jacket just before the latest virus cranked up to full power. Less fortunately, I misjudged placing the buttonhole (which I wrote into the pattern last time round) and it needed to be a couple of rows higher and closer to the edge by a couple of stitches. Ordinarily this wouldn't seem like much of a big deal; it was only 7 rows to rip back and re-do. It took a few evenings to sort it out and it really could have been done in one. 

A few days in the head-clearing spaciousness of Keswick have helped; not enough energy for big walks but we went for a wander along the lakeside and enjoyed the winter sun. 


The dress I wrote about last month has been deferred into next year - too much to do in December without tracing pattern pieces and making toiles etc. I did buy a linen/cotton blend fabric although I'm not so sure about the colour. I bought it online and it looked much bluer on my screen; it's really more of a lilac. (I also bought some habotai silk to line it as it worked out only slightly more expensive than buying an acetate lining). This is only the latest online purchasing mishap. Previous cock-ups this year included ordering a miniscule hat, and fabric that was too light weight for a skirt. The lightweight fabric will get used for something, not so sure about the hat though.

l-r: purple corduroy, printed lawn, habotai, linen/cotton 
So instead of the dress, I might be making a quick and easy skirt using some stash fabric that Kath gave me (purple corduroy, far left) and a previously tested Burda skirt pattern. Or I might make something from the December issue of Burdastyle which has some interesting patterns. It's the first issue I've bought where I'm not sure what to make first. As ever, there's some weird stuff in there too:

Burdastyle weirdness

Next year I'm hoping to use up some stash fabric and work from patterns I have already. That includes a pile of Burdastyle magazines that I haven't tried yet. Each one has at least one worthwhile pattern in. Unfortunately, during the time I took out my subscription there were some monstrosities in there. This Krystle Carrington biker jacket on the right here is an aberration in an otherwise excellent issue.  

The picture below is of the completed nomad jacket. This is the second one I've made, but this time using yarn closer in gauge to the recommended yarn. The colour scheme is a bit 1980s but I'm happy with the fit. I'm pleased to report it looks better on me than it does on my trusty dummy Maria. I'll try and replace this fuzzy pic with a clearer, human one soon.

Nomad Jacket


Thursday, 15 November 2012

I'm Not Done

Now that Autumn is here and it's only a few weeks to the shortest day, I've been trying to get organised for the dark evenings and keep busy. So far I've felt quite positive about the approach of Winter so long as I have plenty to do. (Well actually there's no shortage of things to do - I could be clearing out the understairs cupboard or cleaning the oven).

Butterick Retro 1956 Dress B5813
I've just bought a couple of patterns I've had my eye on for a while, with a plan to make one of them as my December project. The dress pattern arrived (see right) arrived ahead of the blouse so I may well source fabric for that and keep the blouse project for the New Year. I'm inclined towards a linen/cotton blend for this dress.

My year long challenge ends in December and I've been wondering what sort of creative plans I should make for next year. It's been both a pleasure and a bind at times, but has definitely helped me feel I'm in a good place mentally. 

The deadlines have been helpful in motivating me to complete projects, but I think sometimes the quality of the finished item could have been better had I taken more time. So rather than make a garment a month next year, I am going to aim for a small number of projects and see how long they take - I expect some will be quick, some may just need more than a month. I will keep going though.

So far I am up to date with my challenge. I have included the spider costume in my list although it's not for me, it is a wearable item. (Perhaps that's cheating - I will need to think about this). LC wanted to wear it for the next two days after Halloween and has been asking to wear the tights again. I suppose they might come in handy for outdoor adventures on cold days. 

This week saw the start of the second series of The Hour on BBC2. I watched all of series one; it was a little uneven script-wise, but I did enjoy the outfits very much. Last night's episode did not disappoint (not least because Peter Capaldi is now in it and I think he's always interesting to watch). As of next episode, I will be keeping a pencil and sketchbook handy. Quite what I'll be doing with any doodles I make I don't know. I think making the pattern for last month's spider costume has possibly given me delusions of excessive ability!

Romola Garai gets to wear some snappy dresses

Wages at the BBC must have been ok even then.

I am quite far on with my second Nomad jacket. I decided to try the coloured yoke version but with long sleeves. I'm halfway up the second sleeve and have completed the back and front pieces. I remember the slowest bit of this pattern was the pick-ups for the yoke and rib bands up the front. I'm trying to crack on with the knitting the pieces so I can take my time with the pick-ups. I'm aiming to post a pic of the finished jacket by the end of the month.
Won't be wearing with headband or feathers

Over this past month I've worn a few of the things I've made including items that I wasn't too pleased with initially. The Vogue long sleeve top has been a good weight to wear now it's getting colder and I've even got round to wearing the Burda a-line skirt (not the really awful one though). 

I've had no more opportunities to wear my 1947 dress since Kath's wedding, but Christmas isn't far away and I won't be cooking the dinner.... 

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Slowly Goes the Night

Emboldened by my success with the 1947 dress last week, I decided I would make a Halloween costume for Little Creature. Unfortunately, I left it until tuesday to actually do anything about it.

I had some ideas about making a grasshopper/cricket outfit (for an Ugly Bug Ball/nursery bunfight) but when we got to the fabric shop (nothing suitable in the stash box) he was insistent on a spider costume. I suspected there would be several spiders there, probably better dressed, as I have had four hours to put this together and just drew it on the fabric with a piece of tailor's chalk. I winged it with the design, deciding as I was going along how it was going to work out. Earlier, I got some good suggestions for making spider legs at the fabric shop but settled on rolled up sections of curtain interlining stuffed into black fabric tubes with a knitting needle.

I started off quite neat and lined the bodice. It was looking not bad for something drawn straight onto the fabric. However, as the night wore on my standards slipped a lot. It was 0245 by the time I unplugged the sewing machine. I'd had vague (as ever, overambitious) plans to make myself a Halloween skirt as well but there was no time. I think it sufficed that I arrived at work this morning looking like I'd just been dug up.  

Sometimes I really enjoy working late at night. There's always something interesting on the radio which I wouldn't tune in for specifically. Last night there was an interview with Ken Dodd, then some Finnish folk singing that mimics reindeer calls on Radio 3's Late Junction. Not something I would be likely to seek out but happy to sew along to it. 

This morning, LC took some persuading to put on the woolly tights I'd bought him to go with the costume. "I don't want anyone to see me in these tights". I suggested he keep them for an hour or so, trying not to be a pushy mum but inwardly feeling a bit peeved by his lack of enthusiasm for my late-night efforts. Arriving at Nursery he decided that his costume was too spooky and didn't want to wear it, but once he saw that everyone else was in costume (I spotted an excellent snail with papier mache shell, a slug with dangly antennae, assorted spiders, a ladybird, and some kind of beetle) he couldn't get it on quick enough and ended up wearing it all day. It was nice to see so many home-made costumes. 

So here it is before and after it got a good wearing.  (My pics are generally not good quality and this is slightly worse than usual, I could barely see what I was photographing by this point). 

Spider costume after a busy day

Saturday, 27 October 2012

I'll Wear It Proudly

Ten months into my make-a-garment-a-month challenge and I've finally made two things I really like! 

Firstly, I finished my dress for Kath's wedding in the early hours of the morning before the ceremony. I'd actually finished the construction of it the day before but needed to sew on a hook and eye to complete it. The hat was cobbled together from a blocked felt shape I got from Macculloch & Wallis, and a sprig of velvet flowers sewn on as I sat in a corridor outside our bedroom so I didn't wake Little Creature.

I'm fair pleased with how they turned out, and really enjoyed wearing them on such a magical and lovely occasion. So here they are...
Black felt cocktail hat with velvet flowers

Butterick B5209 1947 dress

Bodice made up of 3 sections
I made a slight alteration to the pattern after making the toile as it was a little wide and flappy under the arms so I took 1cm off each side for a neater fit. 

I'd also wanted to put in an invisible zip and bought a special machine foot for the purpose. Unfortunately, ill health and time were against me - post-virus I still feel like I have just stepped off a roundabout after a few ciders, so I found sewing hard-going at times. So no attempt at invisible zips this time. It's been good to have an external deadline, instead of my usual self-imposed ones.

The pattern matching was a little tricky as it had a large repeat and I didn't have enough fabric. I tried my best to match on the front and back of the bodice. As the skirt was gathered, I thought I could get away without pattern matching and just did my best to balance the pattern on each side. The bird and branch pattern is quite forgiving and I'm pleased with how it's turned out.

The bride looked stunning in a slinky sequined dress, simple in construction but beautifully elegant and sparkly. Groom very smart in his kilt. It was definitely a wedding of snappy dressers!

Kath and her good gentleman (with the help of family and friends) put so much work into planning their wedding to make it an inclusive and relaxed few days; it was definitely the most chilled-out wedding I have been to; really lovely to catch up with old friends and make some new ones too. The location, a remote corner of the Highlands was a beautiful setting. I'm not sure if Kath had a hand in booking the weather but it worked out well - crisp, blue skied days, then a sprinkle of snowflakes as we were leaving.  

I'm hoping to post some pics of the location and all their creative work on making the place look so splendid, but they are on honeymoon so will await permission.

Here I am being outdone by carpets, busy light fittings, marble fireplace and china dogs...

Forgot to bring handbag - full glass & nibbles are the best accessories
I think this brings me a little more up to date with my challenge. I've counted 9 items made in 10 months so next month I'll need to do 2 again. Before then I have to get some kind of costume sorted out for LC's ugly bug party at nursery out of the stash box. He's got quite a social life these days - he gave it laldy on the dancefloor for two hours at the wedding stopping only because the band needed a break. 

Can't wait for an excuse to wear this dress again!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

That's How You Sing Amazing Grace

The dress has been progressing nicely and I've been thinking about making a hat too, but nothing too ambitious this time. It's many years since I made a hat, and although I still have two hat blocks and a spiral spring, I got rid of my stash of felt hoods and blocking net a long time ago. So it actually works out cheaper just now to buy a blocked shape and stick some flowers on (which I suppose is cheating a bit).

Coffee Bean felt hat
I've been looking at blocked shapes and after consulting my friend Kath (in whose honour I will be wearing the hat), this is the one we decided looked least like an air hostess's hat. The other two looked decidedly British Airways circa 1980s. The selected coffee bean is from Macculloch and Wallis, so not cheap. I ordered it yesterday; I hope it's larger than an actual coffee bean. I have already made one bad micro-millinery choice this month, more on that later... 

In my teens I used to wear hats a lot. I wouldn't have gone out to the shop without sticking on a beret or an old charity shop breton. These days it's more for practical reasons like not getting frozen ears. In my younger days I was convinced that more people spoke to me when I had a hat on than not. I will have to see if this theory still I live in a fairly small community it's difficult not to have some kind of human interaction when out, and most folk are wearing hats at this time of year anyway (not usually ones with flowers on them). Here are my nice red flowers:

Velvet flowers to go on coffee bean hat

I bought these online along with a little black sinamay hat base called a "cookie". They weren't kidding, it's not much bigger than a biscuit. I must have misread the measurements; I thought I'd get something the size of a side plate. I've been wondering where the line is between cocktail hat (quite like) and fascinator (definitely not ok) and I think the cookie is on the wrong side of the line for me. 

Sirdar Nomad Jacket design e
I've not been doing any sewing for the past few days as it was my turn to get the virus that's doing the rounds, but I did start some knitting for my November project a couple of days ago. Knitting feels more sedate than sewing, and I can watch telly too. I'm trying another one of these Sirdar Nomad jackets using their new brushed yarn Babouska. In spite of my initial disappointment with the last one I made earlier this year (aka the Heffalump jacket), I have actually worn it a lot, and it is surviving quite well in its various roles as dressing gown, work jacket, and fetching-the-coal jacket. I should add, it washes very well! 

The new one is in a plum coloured yarn and a size smaller so I'm hoping to get something more like the shape of the one in the picture.

Well as the week moves on, this virus is looking suspiciously like hand foot and mouth. Luckily Mr K and LC shook it off in a matter of days. I am feeling quite sorry for myself and frustrated that I can't get on with the dress. Having made the toile recently, I have a fair idea of how long it will take so I'm not too worried about the timescale although I don't want to leave it to the last minute. My hands are nowhere near as sore as my feet so I could be sewing tomorrow, or the next day.

Earlier, Little Creature and I were sitting in a cafe waiting for Mr K to come out of the dentist. I'd bought him a magazine with a free camera (with little revolving picture disc in the viewfinder). He was pretending to take snaps of people in the cafe. The waitress obliged him with a toothy smile. "It' doesn't really work," he explained earnestly. "The batteries have died." He gave me a commentary of what people were doing in the cafe, and the street, as he worked on a teacake. My cup of tea seemed to stay hot for ages. I forgot about my sore feet. Time goes at a nice pace when small folk remind you of how interesting now can be.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Road to No Regret

I am typing this in the same room as a large, uninvited spider, last seen scuttling under the desk. Because of this distraction, there may be typos and grammar issues along the way.

My lovely Bernina sewing machine is away for a service so I dusted down my old Singer Melodie 40 to get on with the toile for my 1947 dress. The Singer has been out of use for a while and although this is the machine I use for sewing things I wouldn't allow near the Bernina (paper, plastic, rubber etc), it's working a treat, much better than the ailing Bernina.  

My sewing machines don't have names, but I am quite sentimental about them. The Singer was my 18th birthday present, and a very fine present it still is, because with it I have had the opportunity to experience all sorts of creative adventures - making clothes, hats, bags, curtains for numerous windows long left behind. It took a hot summer of overtime as a chambermaid to save up for the Bernina. However, I discovered last week Mr K has named my dressmaker's dummy after the robot in Metropolis. For the past 23 years it has just been "the dummy" as far as I was concerned, until Mr K needed to borrow it for a work display and then it turns out she's called Maria. 

Mr K asks Maria about her favourite fabrics
There have been occasions over the past 20 odd years where I have been needlessly bored; I could have been sewing or making something. But I just have to push on and make the best use of now. To be fair, in the past three years there has been little time to squander. This year has been a fairly creative period, although I hoped I would have achieved more than I have.  

I now have a bit more time and money for creative adventures as last month, I finally got round to taking my driving test. I had Mr K's dad's driving gloves in the car for luck, as he was a calm, encouraging presence when I was learning to tackle single track roads pitted with potholes on our missions to find good tea and cake around the region. What has this got to do with sewing? Well not much directly, but Mr K's dad also helped me appreciate the value of having a project on the go - which is why I started my year-long project of making a garment a month. I wrote about it in this blog entry

So, to the business of actually making stuff. My local sewing shop had no calico so I have had to make up my toile in this poly cotton gingham. The dress is actually quite quick to make and the instructions are straightforward. This is how the toile turned out (this is it straight from the sewing machine so it's a bit crumpled); I eventually settled on the size 12:
Butterick B5209 1947 dress - toile

Initial thoughts: am wondering if pleating might look smarter for the skirt rather than the gathers? Does the front midriff really need a seam up the front or would one piece be better? Or should I just get on with the real thing now? It needs to be a little neater to the body on the side seams under the armholes - it doesn't look so bad on Maria but it's a little flappy on me. 
Maybe I could make more of a cap sleeve... or just get on with it.

Here's the fabric I've bought for the actual dress. I had to buy two lengths from different suppliers but the dyelots seem pretty similar in daylight. This should give me enough to match up the pattern at the midriff and skirt seams.
Joel Dewberry Aviary 2 - Sparrows

It's not the cheeriest fabric for a wedding, so I was thinking a cocktail hat in a plum or deep pink colour and some vintage style shoes might jazz it up. I have been a bit crap at sticking to my garment-a-month rule (so long as I have 12 things by the year end) but I have been utterly resolute in the no-buying-clothes-except-underwear-and-shoes part of the plan. This is what I'm reminding myself as I feel a bit of guilt for buying these shoes online last night. There were some lovely raspberry coloured ones but they had sold out. These are probably more sensible anyway. Will definitely need to add a bit of colour with the hat now.
Fly London Peak shoe 

Buying the shoes online means I shouldn't have to cram in another trip to Edinburgh before Kath's wedding...which is a shame because I was hoping to catch up with my friend (and ask for an invisible zip masterclass) who makes the lovely things that you can see at  Mister Thread's Needlework Emporium

My Bernina has since come back good as new! It sounds so much quieter and the feed-dog has been reset - what a difference. I'll not leave the service quite so long next time (16 years - not good). So the Singer is back in its case. Poor old Singer.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Till Victory

Fashion newsflash: are the big cities the happening places where new trends emerge? Not necessarily. The creative deviants who inform fashion and cultural developments are creating and deviating in unlikely corners of the planet. 

The look for S/S13
 Observe the sock and sandal combo in this picture (left). An emerging look for the debonair gentleman who values comfort as much as looking stylish, it accommodates the busy man who hasn't time to ratch through the laundry pile to find a matching pair of socks. It has been reported in The Guardian as a key component for Spring/Summer 2013 menswear collections.

These were spotted in rural Southern Scotland at a garden "event". I am also aware of a surfer on the East Lothian coast who has been in the vanguard of this look for many years, and he may be heartened to know that soon those who previously scoffed at his choice will be rushing out to remedy this fashion oversight. 

This month's distractions/excuses not to sew have been the Olympics, visitors, domestic chores (as ever) and intermittent garden events (rare sightings of sun). The Olympics have been exciting and I've been intrigued by sports I didn't even know I was interested in. It's amazing how much effort people put in for such a fleeting opportunity to prove the level of their ability at their particular discipline. In sartorial terms, I have concluded that yellow is not a forgiving colour for lycra, especially for the men.  
Vogue 1051 - view A (right)

So I've been putting off making these trousers (see right) for months now, and with good reasons. It's years since I made a pair of trousers and over the past few months I've been repeatedly faced with the fact that I am no longer a classic Vogue shape, and probably should cut my own blocks (a bodice one at least). It's unlikely to happen any time soon!

Back to the trousers then... I tried view A from Vogue 1051 in a medium weight denim. This was a fairly easy pattern and I especially enjoyed making the pockets. 
I've not done anything like that before so it was a good challenge and I think the pockets turned out quite well. I used a red lining which you can't see, but I know it's there. My notebook came in very handy to get the right settings for denim (previous project) for the overlocker - saved a bit of time and thread.

Pocket detail

Might replace this with picture taken in natural light without snazzy carpet...
However, the trousers don't much resemble the garment worn by the slinky glamourpuss on the pattern envelope. I made a size 12, and they made my arse look like it needed its own postcode. There was a lot of fabric in the legs, particularly from hip to knee. I made some adjustments to the crotch to remove excess fabric which has slightly improved the look of them. On the model, the trousers look like hipsters;  these sit quite high on the waist for me, but then I don't have model proportions. I'm still not sure about the hem length, I might shorten them a little. I'll probably come back to this pattern now it's been amended. I think I've made some kind of progress lately, but still have a long way to go...  
Vogue 8701 Jacket

It's well past past my deadline. Now I really need to be cracking on with something for Kath's wedding.I do have a pattern that I'm not fully settled on but it doesn't look too difficult. My alternative is to sort out the trousers pattern I've just been using and pair it with this jacket. A bit difficult to see beyond the loud check fabric. I'm not in love with it though, so I will keep looking for jackets that are not too complicated. Suggestions are welcome!  

Going by the past seven months, it's unlikely I'll get something wearable for this wedding within a month. At the very least, I'm going to dedicate what's left of August and September to it. Kath is coming down so we can fit her for her wedding outfit. She'll have lots of ideas and plans, and positive sewing energy. I'm hopeful that should help get me inspired too.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Everything in Its Right Place

A month sounds like a long time in which to make a garment. I haven't exactly chosen anything complicated to make so far but quite often, by the time I've done all my chores and the Little Creature is in bed, I can't be bothered to kneel on a bony floor and trace patterns, or - most dreaded sewing chore of all - cut out fabric.

The other evening I could have got cracking with my next project. Mr K suggested we watch Star Trek instead and leave sewing for another day. "You can make me a tabard," he said blithely. "It'll only take an hour." Star Trek won on that occasion, but be careful what you wish for, Mr K...

I also missed an evening of sewing time by going to the pictures to see Prometheus. Despite all the fantastic effects and super technology of the future (instant carbon dating on unknown planets for example, or a Photo-Me booth that performs surgery), Mr K spotted a serious flaw of the future - poor quality luggage. If you'd travelled across space to collect a valuable artefact, you'd likely have a special kind of case for it - perhaps one that floats or has lights or something. Or has a strap. They forgot to pack such a thing on the Prometheus. Next, you have to transport the head of an android containing life changing information on man's creators to your spaceship. Would you be using some old bag with a dodgy zip that would show you up at the launderette..? I suppose even in the future people will be grappling with the futility of bad design.  

In a blatant act of procrastination poorly excused as an effort to get more sewing and knitting done, I have been tidying up my sewing room. Somewhere in this room there is a dead slug. It left a silvery pattern on the rug last month but I never tracked it down. If I push on with this project-dodging tidying up I expect I'll find it under a pile of papers or stuck to a pattern piece. If I cleared out all the boxes of yarn, fabric and ephemera from under the bed I'd probably find it fairly quickly, but this is exactly the task that will push me back to my sewing project. The slug can wait.

Mr K gave me these old crates for storing my knitting patterns and sewing books which has made the room appear instantly tidier:

New purpose for old crates found in the shed
Well after a delayed start, I decided to make the Vogue 2011 long sleeve top next - thought I'd better tackle my fear of the overlocker with a nice easy project. It's turned out to be a good choice as it's a quick make and I was able to use the overlocker for most of the project. I followed the pattern instructions fairly closely but they don't account for overlocking. I'm not so pleased with the armholes but I'm not sure how much I can do to resolve that on this garment. If I make it again I will need to adjust the pattern to take account of my narrow shoulders. It might be worth resetting in the sleeves to see if I can ease the puckering in the upper third of the armhole.

June top and April skirt
There was some faffing about with the machine to get a 3-stitch overlock set up, a little slower than setting up a sewing machine as there are more things to thread and it's a bit fiddly. But the results were pleasing, and quick too. I think I need a bit more practice to get more control with the foot pedal - at the moment it's either warp factor 8 or nothing. (Using my sewing machine after that feels tediously slow). I used woolly nylon in the loopers for the first time for this project and I'm quite happy with the results; it's got a nice stretch and soft feel.

Overall, I think I chose the right size and made a reasonable fabric choice for this project. (The fabric's a little clingy for my liking but it does feel very comfortable). It's been a good opportunity to make friends with my overlocker. Now I have a better understanding of setting it up for different requirements.
I like the cap sleeve version

Next up is a dress for Kath's wedding in October. Better start thinking about it now so I can get some fabric and start sewing! I've got this Butterick one as a possibility but am still looking, perhaps I should go for something more Autumnal like a wool blend suit.

There's a very nice version of this dress here.

So for July, I'd better get on with the delayed Vogue trousers. I've got the fabric and the toile (but not altered yet). Got some baby knitting on the go too.

Still haven't found the slug.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012


In the mornings, the sea reflects its restless patterns on the ceiling above our bed. High tide or low, the sound is constant and soothing, even when the sea is rough. The high tide rolls in within metres of our front door, although there's a six foot climb down a ladder to the rocks and the sea. This place feels safe and cosy. It's ours for the week...  

On the first night we heard seals singing in the bay. Earlier we had seen them lolling about on rocks further out as Mr K and I clambered over the beach (rocks, no sand) discovering assorted debris dragged in by the sea - medical waste, battered old diesel cans, nylon rope, golfballs etc. 

Along from the harbour, a fisherman opened a bucket for Little Creature to see crabs, big as dinner plates. LC eyed them warily from a safe distance.

We've had a few warm sunny days, a couple of dreich ones, and a full-on wet day when we decided to walk the coastal path to the nearest town. We found out along the way that our jackets are no longer waterproof and my walking boots leak quite badly now. I'm not sure a weatherproof jacket is something I'm capable of making to any decent standard. I'll have to make do with the one I have and hope for dry weather.

Knowing I'd be away for a week this month, I stuck with the portable knitting project. Other than a documentary on tv that my sister had recommended, we (Mr K, Little Creature, Granny, and I) didn't bother with radio, telly, newspapers or internet. I wrote the start of this post in my knitting notebook. We're home now; it was nice to just be in a restful place in good company. 

So the Nomad jacket was finished a few days into June. Had a bit of a delay by leaving behind the needles for the front borders and yoke, but managed to pick up another pair in Berwick plus some unnecessary merino dk to add to my yarn stash. Here's the finished garment, I'll try and get Mr K to take a better pic but for now:

I suspect this may end up as a gardening jacket
I think it looks a bit dumpy. The yarn I used knitted up a wee bit wider than the one recommended for this pattern. I'd probably do this again but with a different yarn. The text was straightforward; I do like Sirdar patterns for layout and clarity.

The pick ups were slow going. It took a fair bit of poking about with the needle to make the stitches, the knitted up yarn is so dense. I also discovered in the text that the jacket is fastened with poppers and the button is purely ornamental. Sod that, I paid £2.50 for one button, it's going to get used! So I made a buttonhole. 

Swirly resin button

I suppose I should get round to making the trousers now. I also threatened to make a long sleeve overlocked top last month which of course didn't get further than my tracing the pattern. I have fabric ready for both garments. I also need to think about what to make for Kath's wedding in October. Maybe that can be my project for July. 

Friday, 18 May 2012

Zig Zag Wanderer

Halfway through the month and I haven't really got far with the project I was meant to be doing. Oh well. There have been some good diversions though, more on that further down the page...

At the start of the year I sketched out a vague plan of things to make for this garment-a-month challenge. I'm supposed to be doing these trousers, and I have made a toile for them, but then I had a change of plan and thought I'd try and conquer my fear of the overlocker by doing a project where I would have to use it a lot.
Vogue 2011
So I started tracing the pattern for the long sleeve top (Vogue pattern) I've had in the cupboard for years. I made the asymmetric skirt (nice fit and quick to make) a few years ago and it still gets a lot of wear. Going further back to my last year at college, I made the sleeveless top from some fabric I'd printed to wear at my degree show. I'll have to go up a size, even back then on a meagre student diet it felt a bit on the neat side. I made it on the sewing machine, but this time I'd like to try doing the whole thing on the overlocker.

It's a double layered garment (not that clear on this image) with the undergarment showing at the hem of the body as well as at the cuffs. I've got some nice drapey jersey fabrics in red (bamboo blend) and dark grey (viscose blend) to use for this. Will probably go for the red as the outer colour to help me look a bit healthier.

After much procrastination, I have finally spent a night away from the Creature - the first since he was born. He seemed cool with it; sounds like he and dad had a fine old time. I suppose I was cool with it too, a couple of phone calls home helped.

I went back to Edinburgh to visit my excellent friend and fellow textilian Kath, who is getting married in October and has all sorts of creative plans for it. I've missed Kath, and Auld Reekie too. Plenty of tea, scones and blether, not to mention plenty of doodling in sketchbooks, looking through collected images of every possible permutation of wedding was a busy 24 hours! Kath is doing a printmaking course so that she can print her own wedding invitations. She will also be making her own dresses (possibility of a costume change for the evening). And making decorations. I hope there will be a couple more trips to the Reek between now and October to help glue pine cones/pin hems/drink gin and tonics etc.

The other diversion has been finding a knitting booklet and suitable yarn in the sale at the yarn shop last week. I had no need for either, but it has been a handy thing to do while we've all been poorly this week. It doesn't take much energy and I don't need to think about the pattern too much. Here's a pic of the cardigan I'm doing:
Long sleeve nomad cardigan 

It's the long sleeve version in the top right corner. I also splashed out on a large snazzy enamel button for it which cost the same as one ball of yarn. At least I resisted the tractor beam of the vintage haberdashery box this time.

This is the first time I've worked with boucle yarn. It was a bit of a faff for the first few rows and fortunately I've not lost any stitches, I think it would be hellish trying to find out what was going on if I did. I suppose the flipside of that is it's quite forgiving yarn to work with as any minor mistakes just disappear!

It's knitting up quickly. I managed to knit a front panel in an evening and that was with the distraction of telly and stopping for a tea cake.

All being well, I'll post a pic of the finished cardie in a couple of weeks. If I really get it together, I might even have the long sleeve top done too. Ok, that's maybe a bit ambitious...

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The Model

On time at last!  Here it is, a Burda 8281 skirt (view a) completed by Beltane just before midnight:

Burda 8281(a) skirt in lightweight denim
The hem is only tacked at the moment, so am I cheating by defining it as a finished garment? Probably. I did have time to finish it last night within my deadline. But I'm swithering about what colour thread to use and how many rows of stitching (I was thinking two rows, Mr K suggested three). I figured attempting a handsewn invisible hem on denim could get a bit ugly so it will only take a minute on the machine once I've made up my mind.

At some point, I'll add a picture of the skirt as modelled by a real human. It doesn't seem to matter how I adjust my trusty dress form, I can't present finished garments well on it. In spite of the perky conical boobs (unlike any I've seen on a human) it has been a handy item for dressmaking over the years. It was an 18th birthday present and back then, it was set 1" up from the narrowest waist setting to 25". Twenty odd years and a baby later, I've had to crank it up to 28". I had a look at the new version - the fabric's a different colour and the bust doesn't look quite so pointy (maybe that's the illusion of a different colour). I think I'll get a few more years out of my old dummy. 

Supafit dress form
Once, I decided not to bother with the dummy and its pointiness when, two days before my wedding, I thought it would be a good idea to adjust one of the bust seams of my dress. With an 8" mirror tile as the only reflective opportunity in my flat, no one to help or advise on what I was doing, and a pointy-breasted dummy seemingly mocking me in the corner of the room, this turned out to be a really-not-good-idea at all. After hours of a tacking-sewing-unpicking routine and trying to angle that tiny mirror to get a proper view I gave up. Somehow, either the power of the Force or sewing elves working through the night sorted it out while I slept. Whichever way it was solved, it looked fine in the end.

I made such an arse of the last skirt, so I'm relieved that this one has turned out ok. I like the fit. I'd like to do a few more of these, possibly a couple of centimetres longer and with some applique or embroidery on them. It's a quick and easy make (when I can actually get near the sewing machine).

Snazzy Lightning vintage zips
Last time I was at the sewing shop I picked up a few vintage Lightning zips. I don't usually go for metal ones but the packet promised "permanently coloured teeth" with money back guarantee and charmful packaging offering a special offer booklet from their Publicity Dept. for 6p in stamps (bit late for that one). There was a whole box full of them in bright colours. I thought 3 was quite a restrained purchase, but now I know they're there, I'll probably "have" to go back for some more...

In other activities, we have been doing a lot of speedy racing in the dining room. It can get perilous where small cars and busy patterned carpet meet, and there have been a few unfortunate crunches underfoot. So far the Lamborghinis and Porsche have escaped any damage. So we have now introduced a parking system:

Thursday, 19 April 2012

I Never Picked Cotton

Some time has passed since my disappointing effort at making a Burda 8281 skirt and I've stopped tripping over my lip, so I thought I'd post a picture...

Skirt mishap...buckled fabric
aside from the wonky hem, the main issue is the area between the inserts - the horizontal line and the buckled area underneath it. I should have noticed this when I first marked out and cut the fabric.
Both fabrics are 100% wool, the heathery one is a slightly lighter weight than the tweed (the colours haven't come up very well in the photo). They're long term stash pieces, at least ten years old so at least I'm not feeling the waste of money too keenly.

I got some advice from the lady at my local yarn and sewing shop who reckoned that if the fabric had been folded up in storage for a long time it could cause fibres to stretch. She prefers wool blends for a bit more stability. Lately I've been using wool blends for knitting as my cashmere stash is drying up and the blends are a good deal cheaper. I do remember that we used to find that old cashmere yarn on the cone could degrade quite badly - stretching and snapping easily.  

The pattern itself is easy, and the inserts pressed out nice and flat (plenty of notching on the back) so I would come back to this pattern and try again, possibly in a lightweight wool blend or linen blend. I'll make sure I use the same weight for inserts and main skirt pieces too. 

Currently I'm making view A from the same pattern envelope and hope to post something a bit smarter than this effort soon...

What I have learned from this project:
  • Don't skimp on notching when working on curves
  • Check fabric in daylight
  • It's nice to be sewing (and learning about sewing) again 
  • My hips are not as big as they look in the mirror
  • Mr K will tell it like it is, so be prepared to hear the bad news