Monday, November 29, 2010

Sewing Update - Grrrr and Brrrr

I made a start on my Rockabilly Skirt at the weekend.

However, I totally misunderstood the construction, thinking it was a wrap-around skirt that fastened with buttons. In fact it is a "normal" back-zipped skirt with pocket yokes inserted underneath the front at the sides. The buttons are purely decorative.

The insertion of the pocket yokes is proving to be a challenge. I tried to "size up" the skirt by adding 5/8" to each of the centre front, the pocket yokes and the centre back. As a result, my yokes are too big for the gap they are intended to fill. I charged on regardless, trying to make them fit, and ended up with wrinkling and lumpiness. Now that I understand why they don't fit, I will have to unpick them and trim the excess fabric.

It is therefore entirely likely that the skirt will be too small at the waist and that I should have added even more to the centre backs and front fold. Grrrr.

The waistband is designed to be either lined with another fabric, or backed with grosgrain ribbon. Now I know why this pattern only requires a yard of fabric - because several essential parts are cut out of other material! So the metre of grey lining I bought to line the skirt as a whole has already been pillaged for bodged pocket linings and may therefore be insufficient. Grrrr.

Luckily, I have a metre of grosgrain ribbon in my haberdashery box for the waistband .. but I won't use it until I am sure the garment fits.

What? You don't sing along to obscure German Romantic operas while you sew?!

Weather report:
It is still snowing. The snow plough cleared the "main" road on Saturday afternoon so we made it out to the airport to collect The Girl. But we had to use a sledge to get her luggage back to the farmhouse as our track is impassable.
I was at work today, but FL took me there and collected me early, as further heavy snowfalls were forecast and we certainly didn't want to be snowed out!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

FO: Norie, the sorting hat

The spicy mix of (a) a daughter making life-changing decisions;(b) FL's cancer bouncing back; and (c) being snowed in, was enough to drive me to the knit.

It would appear that I knitted this hat in 48 hours. I didn't know I could!
This is the Norie hat from Shetland Trader Book 1, destined to be the first of many projects from this book as I love, love, love it!

What can I say? A speedy, addictive knitting experience. I used Coldharbour Mill DK, which is quite a light, soft yarn and comes in lots of lovely colours at a good price. This is Devon Green, and I needed less than one 100g skein on 3.75mm dpns (my faithful Daisy needles of course!)

The finished hat is wonderfully drapey and would accommodate a big head of hair / dreads comfortably, while having a tight enough band to stay put. I would like to knit another in soya/cotton for the summer.
Although there is quite a lot of knitting involved, the cat's paw lace stripes give the project a forward momentum that I really appreciated in my hours of need.

Why "the sorting hat"? Well, I was conscious that while I knitted, my daughter was in London, trying to decide between a strict Hackney comprehensive or her current country town academy, and it reminded me of the Harry Potter sorting hat: Slytherin or Gryffindor? Not that she ever got into HP....

And the decision? Oh, it was horribly prolonged and difficult, but in the end she has decided to come back "home" to live with me and return to the country school.
Better the devil she knows.
But we won't be tolerating any bullying or racism or any of the other nonsense. Wee Mad Mamma Roo will be up to see the Headteacher before you can say "Boo"... so watch out you little horrors!

And thank goodness my regular Girl photographer is flying home tonight - FL and I are struggling on our own!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Snowed In

This is the view from my window at 10am this morning.

We tramped to the end of the farm track to survey the public road and it is clear I won't be going anywhere today! The only traffic is tractors and they are making huge ruts in the snow / ice, which then set hard, making the road impassable for ordinary cars.
Thank goodness for Broadband and the option to work from home!

And all that commuting time saved can be devoted to knitting!
This is the Norie hat from Shetland Trader Book One. Loving it!
Message for The Girl:
Snowed in - no diet pepsi or chocolate!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

FO: Aeonium Hat

Whizz! Another Christmas present hat flies off the needles!

It took less than two balls of Rowan Cashsoft Aran (bargain from Kemps) on 4.5mm dpns.

This is one of those patterns which you don't really appreciate properly until you knit it. I thought it was basically a girly Koolhaas, but it is actually much cleverer than that, and a lot easier to knit!

I remember struggling with FL's Koolhaas, as all those criss-crosses were "knit through the back of the loop"s. Aeonium achieves the same criss-crossiness with plain knit stitches except when tbls are used to add extra definition as the pattern starts to swirl on top. I was blown away by all the different ways you learn to decrease stitches and keep the swirly criss-cross-iness going! And the travelling stitches helped me avoid the laddering I experienced with the Medici hat, as I could "time" the cross-overs to move with the needle-changes.

Woo hoo! Knitted hat geek-heaven!

P.S. We have Big Snow! It took me 2 hours to drive home last night and it was terrifying as there was sheet ice everywhere and multiple crashes to negotiate. Somehow I made it back safely, but I am not trying it again until the gritters go out.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

1950's twin set pattern

Oh dearie me - sometimes I wish I could forget my paypal password when I am feeling a bit... emotional... because this is the time when I am most likely to go internet shopping!

So... having waved goodbye to my Girl for anything from a few days to a few weeks, depending on what she decides, I paid a short visit to eeebaaay and snapped up this beauty! The work of about 4 seconds!

I mentioned my recent purchase of 3 metres of wool jersey? It was destined to become a "twin-set", so when I spotted this pattern I just knew I had to buy it!

I will have to size it up by an inch or so, but that sounds do-able.

Ooh - it will be fabulous with my Rockabilly skirt!
They call that a "jewellery neckline" as there is a flat area to display your pearls upon (!) before reaching the pleats. I am thinking of having a back zip instead of buttons on the under-sweater.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Splurgey Sewing Stashery

Thank you for all the birthday greetings!!!! It was amazing to see more and more comments appearing across the weekend :D

I was supposed to be buying 1 metre of grey lining for my Rockabilly Skirt.

So how come I ended up with 3 metres of pure wool jersey in a beautiful rich claret... and 2 metres of chocolatey babycord printed with silver roses and studded with occasional silvery sequins... and 2 metres of teal and taupe plaid for a shirt?

Mea culpa, mea culpa. Ah well, never mind, it was my birthday after all!

The wool? I am hoping I have enough to make a twin-set: a fitted undersweater with matching swooping cardigan. Pattern still to be identified.

The cord? Simplicity 3673, discovered via a link on Rhinestones and Telephones' blog

The plaid? A Japanese pattern with pin-tucks, in imitation of the Brora shirt I spotted. And further inspired by the work of this blogger.

All fabrics from Croft Mill.

I really really need to organise my fabric stash - it is stuffed into odd corners of the wardrobe, under the bed, into an old suitcase - in a total muddle!

And I must make more time to sew!

My daughter flies to London tomorrow to visit the school and make her final decision. If she likes what she sees, she won't come back til Christmas. I might have a whole lot of sewing time coming up soon! Oh my.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me!

46 today.


"late forties" - gulp!

This is the view from the 7th floor of my pet building project. Impressive, huh?

I woke to text from London. My daughter has been offered a school place. It is a weird weird day today.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

FO: Medici Hat

Zoom! There's nothing like a spot of instant gratification in the middle of a long-slog-knit!

This is the Medici hat by Woolly Wormhead from her book Twisted Woolly Toppers, for my mother's Christmas.

It took two 50g balls of Rowan Cashsoft Aran: there were just a few yards leftover at the end. I used my Daisy dpns in size 4.5mm and the gauge is just right.
However, I found I had some slight "laddering" at the needle changes, as it was hard to maintain an even tension with this yarn / needle combination.
Maybe using 5 needles would have helped - I only had 4 and I was in danger of losing stitches at either end of the needle at the widest part of this hat. Some gentle blocking should sort it out.

Lovely pattern, lovely colour, it should be soft enough for my itchy mother, and it is definitely warm! I am tempted to keep it for myself, but that is my problem with Christmas in general!
Onwards, onwards - hat number two beckons!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Let There be Hats!

Medici (Rav link) is proving to be a quick knit and I think it will look really cute - perfect for my mother's short hair. I just have to hope she doesn't go back to her granny perm for the festive season - it looks much better straight, mum!

I am hoping to move straight on to an Aeonium (Rav link) from the same Woolly Wormhead book, again in Cashsoft Aran but this time in pistachio green for a friend.

By then, my Reggae Ombre order should have arrived. I want to knit FL a Rainbow Warrior (Rav link). He loves his Centuria, but I think the colour is a bit dull... hee hee hee! I have been looking for an excuse to buy some Reggae Ombre as it is so very very soft and the colours really zing!

But the hat I am most excited about is not a present... unless I say it is a present to myself! I am absolutely wriggling on my chair in anticipation at knitting / wearing Norie.

Norie hat, photo copyright Jared Flood, from The Shetland Trader Book One. Yes - that is Ysolda modelling it.

My birthday present to myself this year is the Shetland Trader Book One (Rav link) and yesterday my e-book arrived - squeeeeeee! (Don't you just loathe that expression? But nevertheless: "squeeeeeee!"). Shalder will be knitted as soon as I get Audrey off my needles. But Audrey will have to wait because I want to knit hats... and I want a Norie!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

Where has the time gone? It feels like only yesterday that I was "getting ahead" by knitting a stash of baby hats for Christmas. That was in April. Since then, the intended babies have emigrated to Abu Dhabi with their parents, so are unlikely to require woolly warmers this year. How inconsiderate!

So here we are halfway through November and I have officially NOTHING knitted ready for Christmas gift-ing. Which is hopeless.

It is way too late for socks. What has happened to my sock-knitting? Audrey. Audrey has happened. But this weekend she was pushed to one side.

I have begun my Christmas knitting with a Medici hat for my mother. It is definitely "her colour" and hopefully soft enough (last year's Pretty Thing was too itchy and has never been worn - when will I learn?!) This is Rowan Cashsoft Aran from my Kemps bargain haul, and I am really enjoying the soft but firm knitting experience: lots of stitch definition.

I also stacked the log pile. Half a ton of mixed logs were unceremoniously dumped in a heap outside the front door a few days ago and I could tell that FL had no interest in moving them.
I followed this task with stripping this year's lavender crop.
My hands are now wrecked. The joys of country living!
So after all this effort, I settled down and devoured The Perks of Being a Wallflower, from the Reading List. Which was deeply moving. I have not yet fully processed it, but it was definitely a book to immerse yourself in and feel.
I was halfway through this when I witnessed my daughter and son's Facebook chat about whether or not she should move to London. My Boy was such a kind and caring brother today - I had tears in my eyes! The Girl reported these to him, to which he replied "Don't laugh at mum!" which completely set me off. I can't get over how much he has grown up in the past couple of months, away at University.
So... the latest on London is that my Ex has visited a school which has my daughter at number two on its waiting list. Completely against my expectations, he reported that he would be happy for her to go there - that it was very welcoming, academically sound and "quite strict", with a diverse ethnic mix. WOW! I was not expecting that at all. He was being very wary about this school when it was first mentioned. Not only that, but the school's own Admissions Tutor was surprised to hear my daughter was on a waiting list... as there are currently vacancies in her year! She said there was often a lack of communication between the Centre and schools, so my Ex will be ringing the Centre on Monday to get some sense out of them. And my daughter needs to do some serious thinking.
We all do. Gulp.

So who knows what will have happened by Christmas?!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I feel as if I have been knitting my Audrey in Unst cardigan forever.

I honestly thought it would have been finished in the October holiday, but that came and went and still here I am, plugging away at the sleeves.

I was all set to finish Sleeve One last night when I realised that while the body is extremely fitted (um - negative ease, anyone?) my only concession to using fingering weight yarn instead of the specified sportweight was to pick up more stitches round the sleeve cap than Gudrun suggested. As a result, I have a much wider sleeve than the designer ever intended, and it would take me 71 minus 57 divided by 2 multiplied by 9 rows to get back on track.... pause for the maths... so that's an extra 63 rows before I reach the cuff. If my row gauge is 9 rows to the inch (and it may nor may not be, I am not saying because - gasp! - I have not checked my gauge!?!) that would make my sleeves 7 inches longer than the ones on the pattern.

Now, they are designed to be 3/4 length which I really like but I do have circulatory issues to contend with, so if anything, longer would be better... but 7 inches?

Pause to get a ruler out of my desk drawer.


But please, don't try this at home, folks. Swatch first.

Do not be surprised if the next picture you see on this blog is a photo of some ripped-out yarn...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Rockabilly skirt plan

My wardrobe has been culled... and you are sick of hearing about it, so I won't go on, I promise!

And in the wake of a colleague's Voluntary Severance, my diary has suddenly filled up with meetings-across-the-cobbles, so I definitely need more smart work wear: trousers, skirts and long-sleeved tops.

I found this skirt pattern on Etsy and have great plans.

It only takes a yard of 54" wide fabric, as it is a wrap-round style, fastened with buttons at the side waist.

Another opportunity to play with vintage buttons - excellent!

Karen very kindly did some Walthamstow-market shopping for me after I spotted this photo on her blog ...though she didn't include a Percy Ingles cheese and onion pasty in the package, which was most disappointing! ; )

So I have a metre of grey and black tweedy / velvety fabric to try out my new pattern - oooh! I reckon it will look amazing with my Rockabilly plum shirt - the roses match the secret cuff embroidery!

If all goes well, I plan to rustle up a pinstripe version too.

After last week's sewing marathon, preparing for the tartan wedding, I devoted the weekend to knitting. I am approaching the cuff of the first sleeve of Audrey-in-Unst - at last!

Meantime I am jiggling about to the new Imelda May CD - woo hoo! "May-hem, doo doo-doo!"

Saturday, November 06, 2010

And then I saw the bride...!

Thanks for all the lovely comments about our tartan wedding outfits! We had a good time, despite arriving late and leaving early. We stayed long enough for round one of the ceilidh, when the pressure to either dance or make small-talk with golfers became too much for me and FL's feet gave out.
So how was it, I hear you ask? Ha! Me and my big mouth. "Middle class and middle-aged" I said, expecting a very conservative wedding, because after all, I was told it had a tartan theme.

But what FL failed to tell me that the tartan theme had been announced by the groom to an all-male group, intending that the golfers should turn up in kilts. The women? Well, clearly nobody expected them to wear tartan! So, yes, I was the only female in the room sporting plaid. Thank goodness I did so with humour!

And what of my fears of looking too alternative if I had worn the steampunk fascinator...?!?!
Ladies and gentlemen, may I present THE BRIDE!

Yes, that is she, about to kiss my FL - tsk!
Yup, you guessed. Red and black appliqued silk with a full bustle, train, leg of mutton sleeves, corset-lacing... and MINI TOP HAT! The bridesmaids had them too. So at least I can say I didn't want to look like a bridesmaid.
And her make-up? Sweeping false eyelashes with rhinestones at the outer corners of her eyes!

I am in awe. It takes a hell of a lot of spunk to style your wedding so... gothically... in Aberdeen of all places!

Friday, November 05, 2010

FO: Tartan-themed Wedding Outfit

The potential for disaster was all present and correct: a tartan-themed wedding invitation from a couple I had never met, golfing buddies of my dear FL.

It seemed unlikely that the tartan theme was ironic given the social demographic of the bride and groom (middle class, middle-aged golfers). So, as much as I would have loved to steampunk-it-up, I had to control myself and come up with a wedding outfit that would allow me to fit in without having the urge to run out of the church screaming. Though that was still an option ; )

So... I decided to use stashed brushed cotton Blackwatch tartan to sew another 50's-pattern va va voom top. This time it has 3/4-length sleeves, so that I can absorb it into my seasonal wardrobe on an everyday basis. I matched up the tartan at the side seams, but the multiple darts were always going to break up the check. Luckily it is quite a dark and subtle tartan, so I think it works. Shoulder pads were absolutely essential to support the shape at the neck - otherwise the keyhole collapsed in on itself in a most unflattering way, unless I thrust my chest out. No thanks! Perhaps a different bra would have the same effect. It may have turned out slightly smaller than the last one, but it fits most curvily.

The skirt design was not totally to-plan. I thought I would make something swishy and circular to wear with a net petticoat, to play up the 1950's vibe, but I didn't have enough fabric. I originally bought this satin thinking it would make a slinky blouse but it turned out to be too stiff. So I decided to go for something approaching a wiggle skirt, using the same Japanese pattern as my herringbone tweed work skirt. I shortened it by about 5 inches and raised it at the top, adding a waistband, rather like the Jenny skirt. I think the fishtail godet at the back makes it more sophisticated than tarty, which was always going to be a danger with a fitted satin skirt.

I sewed the zip "inside out" so that no stitching shows on the right side. By this, I mean I sewed the zip tape onto the seam allowances on the inside rather than top-stitching from the outside through all the layers. The satin fabric is more firm and "non-slippery" than I expected so it behaved really well. Given more time, I would have bound the seams. Although it frays easily once it gets going, a fierce zigzag stitch finish was sufficient for a garment I don't expect to wear very often.

The hem required some care though. I really wanted it to be invisible. But searching the web, I quickly realised that my best bet in the combined satin / fishtail situation was to aim for a tiny rolled hem, enclosing the raw edge of the satin to avoid fraying. I used the machine as I had run out of time to be fussy. I started this skirt on Monday evening (before I had even finished the blouse, which still lacked buttonholes) and finished on Friday morning... just in time for the wedding at 2pm!

1950's vintage Mccalls pattern 6245, sized down by pleating the pattern tissue evenly down the front and backs from shoulder to hem, shifting the waist darts over to ensure the bust point still fell in the correct place.
Less than 2 metres of Blackwatch brushed cotton from Little Shop of Treasures at eeebaaay. I paid a lot less than that by "making an offer".
One set of 12mm thick Shoulder pads.
Self-covered buttons using Prym metal blanks from eeebaaay.

Style 19 from "Everyday Skirts" (Japanese book ISBN4-579-10949-X) in size 11.
2 metres of satin from Croft Mill Fabrics @ £3.50 per metre.

Tartan accessories:
Pamela Mann tartan tights
Gobbolino giant tartan bow (yeah, I know I could have made one, but do have a rummage round this online shop if you have any teens in your house... or just a subversive streak that requires a bit of TLC. I love the shredded cat scarf!)

Irregular Choice - woo hoo!
And FL?

He hired a kilt in the Black Isle tartan, and chose a toning tartan tie, of unknown clan heritage. He didn't consider there was any need for us to match... and I am glad he went his own way on this. I was immensely flattered that he chose to wear his handknitted Golf Stockings... though I did wish he had washed them for the occasion!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Winter Ready to Wear?

Or... why "home-made-looking" isn't good enough.

After a week of grumbling about the state of my winter wardrobe, but with no time to sew, I tried to buy some clothes. If you know me at all, you will know that I am not an easily-satisfied customer.

I expect:
Good quality materials
Natural fibres
Value For Money
A touch of originality

And in autumn / winter, I want WARMTH. Is that so much to ask? WARM winter clothes?

The usual high street suspects let me down at the catalogue / website stage. A raft of cotton flimsiness. The words "warm" and "cosy" were conspicuous by their absence.
I did the obvious thing and ordered a couple of utterly plain and practical roll-neck jumpers from Boden. One navy. One black. Yawn! But I know they will do the business.

But where to find trousers? Or skirts? Is wool such a rare commodity? I couldn't bring myself to buy Boden bottom halves - they are too "recognisable".

So I ordered a skirt from Kind Hearts Clothing. And it was fine.
FL described is as "alright".
And then he remarked that he hadn't seen me sewing it - when had I found the time?
And I realised I had picked out a skirt I could have run up on the sewing machine in perhaps a day... except it would have had three frills instead of two and it would have fit me properly at the waist instead of hanging off my hip-bones.
So I sent it back.
Which leaves me back where I started: at the sewing machine.
Rather like another blogging stitcher.
The pictures at the top of this post are all from the Brora catalogue: the first clothing company I have come across which acknowledges that it might be COLD in the winter - amazing! But it is pricey. That checked shirt is £89. The velvet dress is £125. And both of them look like items from a Japanese pattern book. There are plenty more things like them in the catalogue. There are shetland fair-isle cardigans and cashmere fingerless gloves, tweed coats and mohair jumpers: beautiful, high-quality "pieces" to wear for years to come. Things I would and could make myself!
What is going on here? I don't want to sew"home-made-looking" clothes and yet my eye is drawn to ready-to-wear that looks "crafty".
Meantime, practical stitching has gone on hold while I attempt to nail the tartan wedding outfit. The blouse is almost finished and last night I cut out a skirt. The wedding is on Friday. No pressure then...