Tuesday, August 31, 2010

SSS: The Inventory

Remind me why I am doing this?

Self-Stitched September:

'I, Roobeedoo, sign up as a participant of Self-Stitched-September. I endeavour to wear only handmade item(s) of clothing every day for the duration of September 2010'.

Yeah, right, well ... it just isn't possible unless I am willing to go to work looking like I got dressed in the dark. So I am going to have to amend my pledge:

'I, Roobeedoo, sign up as a participant of Self-Stitched-September. I endeavour to wear mainly handmade item(s) of clothing every day for the duration of September 2010'.

Because when I hauled out my entire collection of me-made clothing several things became clear:

1 - I sew summer clothes
2 - I knit scarves and shawls and socks
3 - I have no warm long-sleeved tops
4 - I should not have machine-washed my woollen skirts before I put them away for the summer.

So in order for this month to be a celebration of the hand-made rather than an opportunity for career suicide, please expect to see some shop-bought items appearing in the mix.

I hope to remain upbeat, positive and even excited by self-stitchery... so will allow myself to note the gaps, and see what I can do to fill them without wringing my hands and self-flagellating.

P.S. See the top left corner of my list? I do not own a whole* pair of hand-knitted fingerless gloves. How can this be? Must rectify that situation asap!

* Um... I do own two holey pairs...

Monday, August 30, 2010

More new patterns

The prospect of Self-Stitched September sent me into a flurry of crafty list-making:



a jacket

So instead of using my spare time productively, to knit and sew, I have been using it to scour the web for patterns.

Hence: Beautiful Adult's Knitwear, book 14... in Japanese. Ahem.

But I need to use the knowledge I gained at Knit Camp or it will just disappear in a puff of smoke - right?

If nothing else, I will enjoy looking at the pretty pictures.

And after "losing" a jacket pattern on eeebaaay, I found this little number at Etsy.

You think it is "nothing much"?
I think it is "just enough".
Neat collar, simple shoulders, shapely waist darts, and slouchy-casual patch pockets. And a good length - not too long, and not too boxy either.
Now, if I could just find the time and mental space to do some actual stitching...!?!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Weekend catch-up


The Freshman Sock (Knitscene Fall 2009) in Regia self-striping for my son.

Two fab patterns from Karie.

Thank you!!!!

And the blurry reason why my family told me to send back THOSE glasses!

But they go so well with my dress...?

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Image: Front cover of "Let's Make School Uniforms" , a Japanese sewing book, available here.

September is less than a week away. I can't believe it!

Soon my son will be packing his bags and be off to Uni with a cookbook, a grown-up duvet cover (no more pirate print!) and a new pair of trainers.
Meantime, the annual school uniform debacle is in full swing: at what point does a narrow-legged trouser become a "skinny jean" (forbidden); why can boys get away with black trainers when girls have to wear uncomfortable "school shoes"?

I have looked at uniform policies elsewhere and they are much much more strict: only the top button of a shirt may be left undone; no make-up; only discreet stud earrings to be worn.
It is a nightmare, I tell you!
My own Self-Stitched September "uniform" is still under development, in a stalled sort of way. My capelet material arrived, but the pattern is still in transit. I am suffering from a lack of focus / energy / free time.
Photo: Black textured wool for my capelet.

I can tell you that I am liking Great Plains this season. And if I "needed" clothes I would be shopping there in a flash! But I am nothing if not circumspect, and I would much rather sew than shop. If only I could find suitable patterns and fabrics!

And then my heart stopped at Cath Kidston when I saw this dress which is so simple and so "me"... circa 1993.

Photo: Holly velvet dress, £85... and dry-clean only.
I am going to have to haul all my "me-mades" out of the cupboard and take stock. Though, frankly, I am beginning to rebel against my self-imposed "rule". I have been taking a mental note of what I wear and realised I wore the same Gap cardigan every single day this week. I think it is my substitute for the as-yet-unknitted "Audrey in Unst". Even though the other components of my outfits were very different, it is this top layer that is going to be my undoing in SSS.

I have also been trying to buy new glasses. I fancy a pair of cats' eyes. But my family fell about laughing. "Dame Edna" they said. Back they went.

In reading news, I have moved on from Siri Hustvedt to her (?more famous?) husband, Paul Auster. Currently, I am irritated by him writing himself into the novel (City of Glass). Hmmm.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Naked Knitters Strike Again!

The Knitting Noras are at it again!
This time they have produced two sets of Naked Knitting postcards, available from Folksy here.
They are being sold in aid of After Adoption, a charity which supports people affected by the issues surrounding adoption.
Those red stockings were knitted using my Cinderella pattern... not by me, I must add.
Just the thing to send to your aged aunt when thanking her for a hand-knitted tea-cosy, don't you think?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

FO: Dotty Socks

Two finished objects in two days? Wow!
This means I have empty needles! How long will that last I wonder? (Answer: not very.)
Dotty Socks by Irishgirlieknits, part of the Woods Family Collection.
Fleece Artist Merino sock yarn (thicker than most) in the colourway Cosmic Dawn.
2.75mm needles

A very easy stitch pattern, which is very hard to photograph!
The dots are staggered down the leg at ever-increasing intervals, a detail which is barely perceptible. I reckon you could just space them out evenly and the socks would look pretty much the same... but the change of interval added to the speed of my knitting as I watched myself move from chart to chart.

I have had the yarn in the stash for years, well ... five years I suppose, since I first started knitting socks. I had been saving it and saving it until I realised it just had to be knit up before the moths got to it first.
I love the colourway!
I love the pattern!
Double prizes!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

FO: The Shawl of Percy-Verance

It is a week since the Wedding of The Year, and I have finally finished the shawl I was going to wear that day. On reflection, the intensity of the colour would have fought with my dress, so it was the right decision to wear my Shetland Lace Triangle on the day. Hooray!

This was my holiday knitting project and I knew from the start that it was going to be a challenge to both my patience and my knitting skills. I am not a “natural” lace knitter. I am much more at home with socks.

Percy shawl. A free pattern by Sanne Kalkman, available via Ravelry
3 balls of Drops Alpaca from The Wool Shed
3.5mm Addi circular needles
I knitted it as per the instructions. I wanted a big shawl, but could not face a further repeat of Chart B. It blocked out to fit my exercise mat, so all is well – any bigger would have been a problem!
Where is my hawk?
So... what was so difficult?
The pattern is written for experienced shawl-knitters, so it took me a few attempts to get started. There is a provisional cast-on and then a right-angled turn. OK. But you need to know to place stitch markers either side of your central stitch and always work a yarn-over next to these on the right-side rows. The yarn-over is charted but you might not realise there should be a central stitch. It is written into the pattern introduction, but not within the main body of the instructions / charts, so I missed this vital fact at first.
Chart A is a doddle. Relax and knit.
On Chart B, I placed stitch markers at each pattern repeat, as without them I could not tell what I was doing. Chart B has “business” on both sides – knit and purl rows - and I frequently had to pick back to the previous marker when my stitch count went awry. Some entire rows were picked back two, three times before I got them right. I could not memorise the pattern for an entire row to save my life.
Nancy Bush's nupps. Yes, really!

I thought my troubles were over when I finished Chart B, but I had not taken account of the nupps (to rhyme with loops) of Chart C! OMG. The nupps, the nupps! At Knit Camp, I took the opportunity to fondle Nancy Bush’s nupps (ooh err missus!) and I can see that my problem was all about tension.
I should have used a larger needle. I pulled my loops far too tight on the right side row, and ended up digging around with the needle, trying to “purl 7 together” for five, ten minutes per nupp – oh dear!
An example of my loopy nupps.
Some rows took me over an hour to negotiate. And when I blocked it, I discovered that I had dropped several loops in the process. The shame! I will have to sew them into position. Next time I knit nupps, I will do so VERY loosely and using a specialist lace-knitting needle with a fierce stiletto point.

I cannot deny that this is the most complicated lace I have ever attempted, and it is really rather beautiful (if you overlook the loopy nupps, which I will fix). I was crazy to think I could knit it in a week. The Drops Alpaca is amazing value and I love the colour, but I think my next shawl will be knit with something firmer. Nancy Bush recommends a 2 ply Shetland laceweight.

And Nancy knows, you know.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Siri Hustvedt: Enchantment

Painting: Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, 1942

I am reading "The Enchantment of Lily Dahl" by Siri Hustvedt.

I am... immersed. It is one of those books which remains with you after you put it down. Like all of Hustvedt's novels, it is incredibly visual. A reviewer on Amazon mentioned the paintings of Edward Hopper in the context of "The Blindfold" (Hustvedt's earlier novel), but I wasn't convinced.

In this volume, the images are absolutely clear: here are the people standing in windows gazing out and being gazed upon, the clapboard houses, the dark-lit bars. It makes me want to seek out "Poetry of Solitude", a tribute to Hopper through poems inspired by his paintings. But I feel I might be disappointed. I would rather read a Hustvedt novel... over and over again if need be.

Lily Dahl is "enchanted" by images and symbols. An erotic postcard has a Tarot-like quality, predicting her encounter with Ed, the artist she spies upon from her darkened window. A pair of shoes carry the ghostly imprints of unknown feet, guiding her steps into sinister places. Those shoes! Shiver!

There is something cinematic in this writing, too.

I have not finished reading. I am reluctant to close the book, I do not want it to be over. It is rare that I am so captivated by an author these days.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Capelet Capers

Photo: 70's acrylic crochet capelet from Etsy

A capelet: to knit or to sew, that is the question?

If I sew, it will be faster, and definitely more “outerwear” – a coat substitute. If I knit, it will be slower, not a million miles away from a shawl, but cheaper, especially since I have yarn in the stash I could deploy.

Siga asked if I had a knitting pattern in mind. Until yesterday, I was thinking of something from Wrap Style. I recall thinking these were “out there” when I first saw them. Shows how tastes evolve! Pottering around Etsy, I came across this lovely red crochet capelet. Yeah I know – it’s the model’s hair that caught my eye! I won’t be crocheting a whole garment any time soon.

Photo: Ysolda's Emily

Over to Ravelry, and I realised I already have Ysolda’s Emily pattern. I laughed at this the first time I saw it. Bad, naughty Roo, that will teach you to scoff! I am really quite attracted to this pattern now. I have a pile of Ginger Rowan Wool Tweed from the Kemps £5-a-sack sale… or the leftovers from my lime tweed CPH ?. Both essentially “free” to knit! Nothing to lose!

As for a sewn cape… I was surprised that the major pattern companies are not ready for this year’s predicted cape trend. Vogue has a “Vintage” repro pattern, but I don’t like the sleeves. It reminds me of a straitjacket (not that I’ve ever had one of those…)
There’s a McCalls jacket /cape style – but again it defaults to having sleeves. Where is your courage, pattern designers?
So I am back to scouring Etsy for a vintage pattern. It’s down to two possibles. One is more of a stole, while the other is a definite coat layer. I might have to buy them both and hope my taste doesn’t change again before I get round to making them!

ETA: I opted for the coat-like one. above.
Though the stoles are so elegant, don't you think?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back to School

So here we are. It is the middle of August. My daughter goes back to school today, and my son is off to University in a very few short weeks. The wedding is past, the holidays are past, and I need to get ready for Self Stitched September (SSS).

I know, even before I audit my wardrobe, that I lack at least one more jacket / cardigan suitable for work. September is autumn in these parts and it can get really cold. I am hoping that SSS will help me bring some home-made “lurkers” into circulation, but I also know that there is a lot of potential for mismatched morning panic attacks unless I sort myself out in advance.

If I resort to wearing a few shop-bought items and spend the month filling the gaps they represent, at least by October I should have a self-stitched capsule wardrobe, and the month of attempted Self-Stitchery will not have been in vain!

September knits:

Audrey in Unst cardigan – in pine green AlbaYarn Shetland wool (from stash)

If I finish that, I will move on to a vintage Stitchcraft magazine cardigan. Or a Japanese pattern (heh heh heh = nervous laughter!)

Socks will be knit as a matter of routine! I would like to send my son to Uni with a new pair of socks (and a cookbook.)

I would like (to knit?) a chunky capelet.

September sewing:

Here’s where it gets messy! The things I really want to sew are not necessarily the things that will pull my wardrobe together into a cohesive “capsule”!

Navy high-waisted trousers using the EvaDress 1940’s pattern (from stash)

Black stretch cotton sateen wiggle skirt, possibly self-drafted, or using this Vogue pattern (fabric in stash)

Burda 02/2008 tie-neck top – sleeveless, so totally impractical, and I don’t have fabric yet. But I am obsessing! Look at this version! It made me run to Eeebaaay for the pattern!

A work-friendly shorts suit, using my bundle of mixed navy/ charcoal wool fabrics . The jacket will come in handy for general wear. The shorts are a piece of insanity that I need to get out of my system. The jacket pattern will probably come from Burda 02/2008. The shorts? Dunno.

A little cape? Another idea which refuses to get out of my head.

I know now that I lack long-sleeved everyday staple tops. Do I really want to make my own jersey t’s? Or do I need to make plain-coloured long-sleeved blouses of some kind? Even typing those words bores me. Yawn. I need to find inspiration if it is going to happen.

I love the sleeve detail on this top from Great Plains. Maybe I could copy it?

Or perhaps I just need to concentrate on the jackety layer and then I can wear my short-sleeved "me-mades" well into autumn.

So...is that a plan?

Monday, August 16, 2010

A day at Knit Camp

On Saturday I took the train to Stirling, to the UK Knit Camp. I have to say I was worried I would get there and discover I was alone, because there had been so many rumours on Ravelry that the event had descended into chaos following a mix-up over work permits for visiting tutors from overseas. But all was mostly well.
The event was a lot quieter than you might have expected, and people seemed to be wandering into classes without having paid or registered, which must have p-ed off the tutors and organisers... but I really enjoyed a talk on Ethnic Lace Knitting by Nancy Bush, Liz Lovick and Donna Druchunas, and a brilliant class entitled "Introduction to Japanese Knitting", again with Donna.

This is Nancy Bush with an Estonian shawl.

In the Marketplace, I met Karie (hello!) and Kate and Lilith, but was too shy to say hello to Annie Modesitt or Woolly Wormhead. I did get a big hug from Natalie of the Yarn Yard though!
L to R: Karie, Kate and Lilith
I also asked a distinguished-looking lady for directions to the Ethnic Lace talk... and of course it turned out to be Nancy Bush herself.
I was mortified. I have three of her books and I didn't recognise her. Fool.
I was very controlled in my purchasing and came away with only two skeins of Old Maiden Aunt sock yarn - it is beautiful!
Top to bottom: Derelict Daughter and Bluebells
It was the first time I had been to such a gathering of knitters and it was quite overwhelming. I am definitely feeling inspired to finish my Percy shawl and move on to other projects - especially trying out a Japanese pattern or some Estonian lace.
Verdict? A fabulous day out! :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wedding of the Year

After all those preparations, my work-friend's wedding day whizzed by. It was 10pm before the band struck up for the first dance, and FL and I sneaked out of the door before we turned back into fieldmice.

My vintage dress was a success, not least because it was the only one remotely like it. I felt so sorry for the three ladies who turned up in the same dress and felt the need to avoid each other all day. There was another dress which appeared three times, but in different colours, which was really interesting. If it had been my wedding I would have liked to get a picture of them all together... but perhaps the ladies concerned lacked sufficient humour for that.

So here we are, in all our splendour. Doesn't FL scrub up well?! Though the suit jacket was a bit long...
I wore my mother's crochet gloves from the 50's, and my granny's bakelite beads. My fabulous Irregular Choice shoes were a big hit!
"But hang on a minute, Roo, I thought you were knitting a red shawl to wear to the wedding...?"
Nupps to you! That's all I have to say on that subject! I am six rows from the end. Six rows!!! But as my daughter noted, my Shetland Lace Triangle was a good match for the dress.

You want to see the bride don't you? Her mother made the dress using a Marfy pattern. It took three muslins to get it right. It has an asymmetrical layer of silvery lace on the bodice and a sequinned trim round the neck. That rose corsage at the waist was beautiful! And it had a train which she pinned up later for dancing.

The bride's mother also made the bridesmaids' dresses... AND the groom's KILT!?! I am in awe.

The groom's mother knitted the kilt hose (long socks) for both the groom and the best man. She did both pairs in three weeks!

It was a very stylish wedding indeed!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Vintage dress alterations

I foolishly believed that the purchase of a vintage dress to wear to the wedding had solved all my problems.

It "just" needed to be taken in a little at the bust, I thought. Ha! When will I learn? I unpacked my dress from its box and tried it on. Although it was quite a snug fit at the waist, it was baggy under the arms and felt too wide across the upper chest. "Easy! Just lift the shoulders!" I decided.

So I unpicked the shoulder seams of the dress and its lining, and hoisted the straps by 2cm, back and front. I tacked it before I sewed.
When I went to try it on again, I noticed a strange pucker across the bodice. Turning it inside out, I could see a line of heavy black machine stitching running horizontally across the garment, tucking the front up by about an inch. It hadn't been done with much care or skill. It was definitely some kind of a "quick fix" to make the dress fit a previous owner. So I decided to unpick it.
I was admittedly afraid that it was concealing a big stain or rip, but I really didn't consider the risk of exposing the two rows of holes left by the black stitching.... until I had done it! However, it is not a showstopper. And the dress has relaxed into a far better shape - phew!

So I sewed the straps as planned, and then ran a line of stitching down the non-zipped side seam, from 2cm at the top, tapering to nothing at the waist. When it arrived, this seam had just been tacked closed and showed signs of a couple of previous alterations. Whatever else, this dress has had a lot of effort invested into making it fit its previous owner/s! On the zipped seam, I moved the hook and eye to a better position to draw the fabric over to cover the top of the zip under my arm. Done? Almost! I also had to restitch the bottom hem, which was falling down.

In all, it took me half a day to carry out all these alterations. As I worked, I became aware of the undeniable "old clothes" smell of my dress. I hung it by an open window for the last few days before the wedding. but I realised I might have to wear some perfume to freshen up my... aroma. I never wear perfume! But I couldn't go to a wedding smelling like a charity shop.

My daughter and I hit the town and must have sampled every "tester" in Debenhams, Boots and John Lewis before I settled on DKNY's "Be Delicious", on the principle that it didn't smell like fly-killer.

I love the fabric, and the style is so unique, but the smell is bothering me. It took a while for me to notice it, so I am hoping that the fresh air and a spritz of eau de parfum will be enough to rehabilitate it. I am pretty sure it is "clean"... it is just old.

And FL's outfit?
FL and I both ordered suits for him to try on. His was from a leaflet found in the Radio Times, perfect product placement for an "old fashioned" suit for an older gentleman! However, it turned out to be made of very shiny "wool", and the trousers did not seem to be the same colour as the jacket. The trousers had those nasty little pleats at the front - too small to add style, but big enough to make a man's crotch look saggy! It also arrived as a crumpled mess, which irritated me a great deal - it was packed in a suit hanger and a box and yet still looked like it had been through the wars. Back it went.
My attempt at suit-buying was also from a magazine flyer, but I think mine was from The Observer. This one was altogether crisper and more expensive-looking and yet cost less than half the price of FL's attempt. However, it was light grey with a fine pinstripe, and FL was not happy. He wanted a darker colour and no stripes. I do agree he looked a bit like a vicar in it. However, it was looking like our only option a few days before the wedding.

And then... by complete chance, one of his golf friends appeared at the club with a bag of clothes destined for the Red Cross shop. FL has a history of accepting such cast-offs as he doesn't believe in "wasting" money on clothes. The friend was dubious about this bag-full: "I don't think you will want it... it's a suit. When did you last wear a suit?!"
So home it came, and FL surprised me by getting dressed in the Bothy and making a grand entrance: "What do you think?" And actually, it is the best of the lot. Third time lucky! It is a very dark navy with a charcoal grey dotted stripe. The fabric doesn't crease easily, and the trousers have a flat front. I had to take the hems up an inch, but that was no problem.

So there you have it - we are both wearing vintage to the wedding! Pictures will follow!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Holiday Reading

I almost forgot to tell you about my holiday reading. Yeah I am supposed to be on a blog break but I need to write about this!

I read an awful lot on holiday!

At the start of the week, I finished off The Sorrows of an American by Siri Hustvedt. I have been having a period of Hustvedt immersion, reading What I Loved, The Blindfold and A Plea for Eros before I got to Sorrows. I imagine that this is the novel that will make it to college reading lists, because there are lots of juicy "themes" to sharpen a set of young critical teeth upon. It amused me to come home and find this review of the novel, written as it is by Lisa Appignanesi. The latter's book Mad, Bad and Sad: a history of women and the mind doctors appears in Hustvedt's own reading lists. I can't better the Independent review, so I won't try. I still have The Enchantment of Lily Dahl to read, before I feel ready to say I have "done" Siri Hustvedt! I am still intrigued.

Next up was One Day by David Nicholls. This was a compulsive read. Modern lite-lit, in the mould of a Hornby, but definitely female-friendly. I was gripped by nostalgia as I read about familiar places, feelings, situations and even people. I defy any student of the 1980's not to feel the same way! Yeah, I cried. Just what you need on holiday, a bit of catharsis. Thanks for the recommendation Karen!

And finally, the "trashy novel": I Heart New York by Lindsey Kelk. I probably have more to say about this one than both the others put together, because it made me so angry!
It was given away free with Glamour magazine. So it was my 14-year-old daughter who passed it on to me. On the face of it, it is a piece of cheesey chick-lit about a girl who runs off to NYC after catching her boyfriend bonking another girl at her best friend's wedding. But the "messages" therein made me feel physically uncomfortable. Remember that my teen daughter read it first.

Back in the day, chick lit was "romantic" and fairly harmless: girl meets a couple of guys, one is a bounder, the other a knight in shining armour, and she ends up marrying the "right" one. Not exactly feminist, but I could laugh it off.
But this?! Girl meets a couple of guys: one a rich bland eligible banker, the other a glamourous (druggy? I am sure he must be, but it is never actually stated - funny how alcohol is OK but drugs taboo in a tale of excess!) indie rock star, and uses them both for sex, alcohol, blog-fodder and gifts. Her main raison d'etre seems to be spontaneous over-consumption. She stuffs herself with sugar, carbohydrates and alcohol (lots and lots of alcohol) , living a "lad-ette" lifestyle, with an apparently endless source of credit. Marc Jacobs, purveyor of handbags, appears to be the sponsor of this piece of modern literature - if the author did not receive a handsome royalty, she deserves one.
The main protagonist is such an ugly person! I can guarantee that young girls will read this and want what she's got. And get: a massive credit card bill, tango tan, sleek straight hair, a medical dictionary's worth of STDs, a huge wardrobe full of designer labels, clinical obesity, alcohol poisoning... and be left with not even the faintest residue of personal integrity to call their own. Oh - but obviously they will also be head-hunted for a major job on a fabulous new fashion magazine on the strength of living it large in New York and blogging about it. Because nowadays, the new young feminist gets the job, rather than the man and that's Girl Power isn't it? IS IT?!

What is really scary is the reaction of young readers. Have a look at the reviews on Amazon. There are enough young girls out there who believe this s**t to make it genuinely dangerous.
Thank you. I needed to get that off my chest.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Golden Age

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour - "The Golden Age"

I wished I lived in the golden age
Giving it up on the broadway stage
Hang with the rats and smoke cigars
Just have a break with Frank and count the stars

Dressed to the night, we've had too much
Shiny jewels, casino cash
Tapping feet, wanna take the lead
A trip back in time is all I need

Sing it out loud gonna get back honey
Sing it out loud get away with me
Sing it out loud on a trip back honey
Sing it out loud
and let yourself free


I'm on my way, gonna make it big
Gonna make these songs for the chicks to dig
It's really hot and a little bit sour
We're getting your strength to the maximum power

Flying away from reality
Whatever-ever happened to gravity?
I see it clear, a shooting star
And I'm really gonna sing it like da-da-da

Sing it out loud gonna get back honey
Sing it out loud get away with me
Sing it out loud on a trip back honey
Sing it out loud and let yourself free


Sing it out loud gonna get back honey
Sing it out loud get away with me
Sing it out loud on a trip back honey
Sing it out loud and let yourself free


Ohhh silver screen on a rainy day
Sally Bowles in a cabaret
Shaking sticks, oh what a show
Fresh and jolly, from tip to toe

Rambling down the boulevard
With a fly, a bird, and a wooden heart
My mind is set, I walk the line
But I never really thought that it would feel this fine

Sing it out loud gonna get back honey
Sing it out loud get away with me
Sing it out loud on a trip back honey
Sing it out loud and let yourself free

Sing it out loud gonna get back honey
Sing it out loud get away with me
Sing it out loud on a trip back honey
Sing it out loud and let yourself free!

Hey! Hey!


My new Molly Spilane bracelet from Green Apple. They are sold out of this design now, but I found it on Etsy too, here. Ooh.. and she has made another variation that I might like even more - darn it! You could buy that one! ;)

Blog Break

I am having a little break from blogging while I finish off the Percy shawl, alter my vintage dress to fit.. and attend a wedding! So don't worry about me - I'll be back with things to show!

Ravelry Day in Stirling

P.S. If anyone is going to the Ravelry day in Stirling on the 14th I might see you there. I am attending a Japanese Knitting class with Donna Druchunas and a talk on Ethnic Lace with
Nancy - gasp! - Bush and others. I am very excited about this! I will meet other knitters! WOW!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

FO: Sencha in Tana Lawn

Having cut and prepped my Sencha blouse on holiday, I was determined to sew it up on my first day back. If only as an escape from the interminable rows of my Percy shawl!

I can see why so many sewists have struggled with the fit of this blouse. When laid out flat, it looks, frankly, HUGE! I was tempted to cut a size zero, if only for the comic value of telling my daughter I was a potential supermodel. But commonsense and a measuring tape prevailed, and I cut a size 6 (US sizes) on the principal that it was more likely to fit... even if it looked more like a size 22!

What an interesting light switch!
The Tana Lawn was a dream to work with. Seriously, it didn't misbehave at all - no fraying or thread-snagging whatsoever. FL thought it was silk when he saw it. It has the fine weave of a voile, but a certain amount of body too - it doesn't go all limp and droopy as you work with it.
I really like this blouse! I used some vintage buttons from granny's button box on the back. They are brassy metal with a mother-of-pearl inlay. I only had four of these, so finished the lower section with hidden snap fasteners. They are below the waistline so nobody will be any the wiser as I definitely intend to wear this top tucked in...

...because this top has some very... pointy tucks, as in: they point. They aim downwards from the neck with such a powerful outward trajectory that when I look down, I feel like my boobs are being thrust sideways and down, while the waist tucks give a contrasting upwards poof of fabric. The net result is that I feel like the star in a Carry On film. Yes, for the first time in my life I am channelling Barbara Windsor. I am really not accustomed to drawing so much attention to my bosoms! Tucking it in keeps the fabric under sufficient control. Leaving it loose is... not good! Possibly I need to reconsider my upholstery. A bra with rather more pushed-togetherness might be a good idea.
A heavy necklace helps too. I am wearing my granny's double string of glass beads today, and they pin the fabric down beautifully!

I am surprised to find I like the extended-shoulder sleeve. This was my main reservation about the pattern when I first saw it: I thought it would make me look broad-shouldered and hit my arms at the chubby point. In fact, the opposite is true: it is very flattering. It is almost sleeveless yet it covers the underarm area - fantastic! Cool without being over-revealing! Result!

Sencha blouse pattern from Colette, won from Karen in a blog comment competition. Thanks again Karen!
1.4 metres of Liberty Tana Lawn, in the Carline print, won on eeebaaay for £12. This was exactly the right amount of fabric for a size 6 (and would probably be enough for several bigger sizes too).
Vintage buttons.
What did I think of the pattern?
Very clear diagrams, though some of the written instructions were a bit opaque - so I just used my experience and did what I expected to do. For example, the description of Understitching confused me. But maybe it's just that the terms used were US-friendly rather than English..?
The method shown for the back opening produced a very neat finish - full marks for that!
Oh - and the sleeve with its invisible Catchstitching (no proper explanation given in the pattern, but that's what the web is for!) gave a thoroughly professional and vintage-looking hem - very nice!
I was worried that the neck would come up too high, but it seems to sit lower than the neckline I've seen other sewing bloggers produce. I have no explanation for this. Maybe I inadvertently took a bigger seam allowance?
Would I make it again?
Yes, I most definitely would. In a super-drapey voile or perhaps a slinky satin! Maybe in a plain colour next time, or at least a smaller print.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A Week of Stitching

You surely didn't think I could take a week away from sewing, now did you?

While FL read about The Babylonians. I cleared the holiday cottage dining table and cut out my Sencha blouse.

No, you haven't seen that fabric before... except .. it is somehow very familiar...? Yes, it is the blue version of Liberty's Carline print Tana Lawn. Gertie used the red colourway to make that dress. I wanted to use it to make a dress for the wedding, but it was too expensive / the pattern didn't work out / blah blah etc. So when I spotted the blue print on eeebaaay I popped in a desultory bid and was surprised to be successful! 1.4metres of Tana lawn for £12 = not bad!

I didn't take my sewing machine on holiday (though it has been known!) so I just did the prep work: measuring, re-measuring, cutting, tailor-tacking. All ready to stitch on my return home. And I can report that it is all done, bar the final sleeve hem and the buttonholes - woo hoo! Pictures will follow!
On to knitting news, and apologies for using the same photo twice, but here is the best shot so far of my Percy shawl.

It is a lot bigger now. I had hoped to finish it last week, but that Chart B was the undoing of me. Certain rows were ripped back two, three times
until I got them right. I ended the week two rows short of a shawlette... but I know it needs to be a proper shawl-sized shawl, so I have to knit another 27 rows of chart B followed by 36 rows of edging. Before the wedding on 13 August.

There - I've said it. 13 August. So help me! I really don't know if I am going to finish in time. I might have to buy an emergency cardi from Boden.

If only my lace-knitting went as smoothly as my sock-knitting! A few re-run episodes of Project Runway got me to the heel of Sock Two of the Dotty socks. I wasn't even trying.

Monday, August 02, 2010

We're back!

Ha - you didn't even know we had gone! FL and I have just spent a week in Mellon Charles, on the West Coast.
  • Beaches
  • Mountains
  • Sheep
  • Eggs from the hens outside the window
  • Knitting
  • Reading
    Lots of coffee and a fair few helpings of cake
  • Golf for FL

We "did" FL's favourite mountain, An'Teallach - or at least we hiked up the adjacent hill and looked into the three corries...
...when the clouds eventually lifted.

I was promised chocolate at the top and was handed the small half of a Double Decker bar... he had eaten the second bar at golf the day before.
There were mutinous thoughts all the way down that mountain, but I got over my disgruntlement at Maggie's Tearoom over tea and a slice of chocolate fudge cake.
We also visited the obligatory Inverewe Gardens, but I much preferred the open day at the House of Gruinard gardens, where I got lots of inspiration for my sad neglected herb patch.

I bought one of these plants the next day at the Garden Cottage Nursery. Lovely, isn't it? It is Spanish. Um... it's a kind of sea holly. Sorry I can't remember the name.

They also have a second-hand bookshop in their garden shed, so FL was happy to browse while I idled with indecision in the rain.

Yes, there was a lot of rain.
We ended our week with a meal out at the Melvaig Inn. A wonderful place! A real food oasis in an area where the hotels smell overwhemingly of furniture polish and "air freshener".

Other highlights:

The Aroma Cafe at the Perfume Studio in Mellon Charles. Proper coffee in the Highlands!

The knitting and the reading - but they deserve a post of their own later in the week!

A walk over the hills to Slaggan from Mellon Charles. We had to follow a line of cairns to get there. Definitely an adventure!

I only today found out we could have gone by road if we had started from the other side of the peninsula. Ah well.

As you can see, FL was in his element.

Taking me to see An'Teallach was top of his list of "Things to do before I die". I am sorry if I was not as appreciative as he expected! The final affrontery was finding a fat tick with its jaws firmly clamped to my forearm that night... eeergh!
But all in all, we had a lovely holiday!
I won't recommend the cottage we stayed in. It was sorely in need of refurbishment. But if your budget is up to it and I have tempted you to explore the area, here is a wonderful alternative!
Today we are back to "al claes an' parritch" as my granny would say.* But that's OK too.
*Old clothes and porridge, everyday life.