Sunday, February 27, 2011

FO: Land Girl Skirt

One day's sewing and I have a new skirt!

Pattern: McCalls 2269 from 1970, view A, waist 27, hip 38

Fabric: 2 metres of German "trousering" from Croft Mill Fabrics @ £5.50 per metre.

I note that there is now a health warning on the website concerning the ideal washing temperature for this fabric. Perhaps because I wrote to complain that it developed pronounced faded creases when I pre-washed it, and sent back a sample to show what had happened. I was promised a refund which never came, but it turns out that all is well: I am happy with the skirt and was able to cut around the bleached-out streaks.

Buttons: Civil Defence buttons from WW2.

I bought two on eeebaaay and a friendly Raveller sent me another five.
(Christian - if you are reading this, there will be a little something in the post to you on Monday ; ))

So... how was it as a sewing experience, Roo?
I'm very glad you asked. This fabric was out to get me from the start!
I stitched the first few seams without incident, but when it came to topstitching the front yoke section in place, all hell broke out.

The needle refused to pierce the multiple layers of cloth, dis-engaging the fly-wheel. So I changed to a heavier needle, and the same thing happened.

It wouldn't even work if I hand-cranked the wheel!

I searched the house for my old 1970's Singer sewing machine... and then remembered I had given it to the charity shop.

So I took the dog for a walk in the woods.

When I came back I tried changing the needle again.


And then I hit upon the idea to use a finer needle, instead of a heavier one.


The thinner needle slid easily between the cords of the "chain stitch" cotton, and everything went swimmingly from then on - phew! The zip went in without a hitch.

I decided not to tempt fate with a heavy interfaced facing at the waist, and instead used a length of polka-dot grosgrain ribbon in a colour described unappetisingly as "turf tan" - perfect!

The hem was simply turned over twice and top-stitched.

It turned out exactly as I hoped.

The waist comes up quite high, which is perfect for wearing with any of my vintagey blouses - especially Sencha! And just right with Audrey-in Unst too.

Oddly, there is also a touch of cow-girl style going on, and it is very "country and western" with my cowboy boots!

My daughter thinks I need to buy some new shoes to wear with it, probably in tan.

I know just the pair! ; )

Image: Urban Outfitters

Saturday, February 26, 2011


All over the blogosphere I can see stitchers getting excited about Me Made March.

I really enjoyed participating in Self Stitched September, but the thought of doing it again in March fills me with dread.

The thing about March is that it is still basically winter here. You can call it "spring" as much as you like, but I won't believe you. I still need to wear layers and layers of thermal vestage and wool over and under my me-mades.

If I took part in MMM, I would have to fake it for the photos, and what's the point of that?

Eva Dress 1940's pattern for trousers or dungarees: for budding land-girls!

So I have decided to use the month for "Me-Making" instead of "Me-Made".

It will be a month of sewing and knitting, but also for a bit of a makeover. I am going to up the ante with my hair and make up and general "image".

Try things out.
It should be fun!

I just checked my diary and March includes: one theatre trip, one training event (with me in front of the "class"!), two project board meetings and an internal audit. OMG - really?!

So, um, yes, it should be "fun"!

I will certainly wear "me-mades" most days, as is my habit now, but I need to keep the flexibility of adding a smart jacket or a warm RTW cardigan, so I'm not signing the pledge!

March Sewing plans:

First up: this little 1940's blouse (top right) in sprigged cotton, to wear with my Land Army skirt and a fair-isle cardigan. Ahem*.

I also want to make a pair of wide-legged trousers.

I will use the Eva Dress 1940's pattern in swishy navy cotton with anchor buttons.

If all goes to plan, I will make a second pair of trousers and maybe another blouse, but I want to keep my goals realistic!

March Knitting plans:

*A cardigan.
Maybe Shalder in the wool I bought on the West Coast...?
Or Betty Jean McNeil (no yarn in stash) ... ? This would be my "fairisle" cardigan. Real fairisle terrifies me.
I am thinking of a brownish neutral oatmeal with a shot of tangerine for the argylliness. I would use Albayarn.

Photo credit: Family Trunk Project
Or I could dig out a vintage pattern from an old Stitchcraft magazine using sloe (dusty purple) Sublime ultra-fine merino from the stash...? This would be the sensible and yet creative option!
I might not knit a pair of socks in March, but devote myself to the cardigan, to see if I can complete it in a month.
That sounds like a plan! Watch this space! ;)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sewing: a Land Army skirt

My latest sewing project is a mish-mash of vintages.

Calling it my "Land Army" skirt probably has my Aunty Sarah giggling in her grave. She was that kind of a woman - always in fits of laughter about something!

She was an actual "land girl" in the war, you understand. Having decided that working in the munitions factory was not her cup of tea, she took to the fields instead.

As a result, she could identify every wildflower in Scotland and in the summer holidays she used to take me out for walks "down the glen" looking for flowers to name. She also taught me how to fry an egg. But that's not relevant... though I think she was the first person I knew who enthused about keeping hens, full of memories from her land girl days!

So, what's going on here?
It started with a 1970's pattern with front pleats and a buttoned yoke panel (top right). I saw this style and thought it had something 1940's about it.
And I remembered I had some "distressed" cotton canvas in the stash. It is dark brown and sanded on the upper surface, but quite rough and caramel-coloured on the underside.
When pre-washed, the fabric developed some badly-faded creases diagonally across its width, and I almost threw it out. However, I managed to cut the skirt panels around these areas.

The more I thought about it, the more I was reminded of a uniform skirt, and that mucky brown colour made me think of farms and mud ... and one thing led to another and I decided this would be my "Land Army" skirt, in honour of Aunty Sarah. (Who actually wore dungarees on the Home Front, but lets not get picky!)
I wanted to emphasise the uniform aspect with metal buttons, but didn't want to use something overtly military, so I fell upon the idea of "civil defence" buttons. I suppose the Home Guard would have had these on their uniforms...? I have not been very successful in my historical research of this point (google has failed me!) so if you know better, please let me know!

I won two buttons on eeebaaay, and then a wonderful Ravelry reader offered me another five! Her son had bought them as a joke because her initials are "CD", but she felt a bit self-conscious about using them - how lucky am I?!

I think it will be fabulous with a fairisle cardi over a sweet little 40's blouse... you can see where this is heading can't you?

Better finish the skirt first though...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Glasses

I have new glasses.
I am sorry I was unable to consult my style gurus before their purchase, but this was an emergency situation.
Sometimes I have to be forced into a decision, or it just doesn't happen.
They are a very dark tortoiseshell brown on the outside, and unexpectedly purple on the inside.
They have a bit of a retro look I think.
Of course, they cost more than I wanted to pay. But that appears to be the way of these things. Cheaper than my latte habit, even if they only last a year!
But I sincerely hope they last a lot longer than that.
Oh - and I can see really well through them too!
Paul Smith style 432, if you are interested.
I am such a fashionista! ; )

Sunday, February 20, 2011

FO: Cinnamon Slip in Voile

I spent most of the weekend sewing up my Cinnamon slip.

Colette Cinnamon slip, made up in size 4 (US)
Silk / cotton voile from Ditto Fabrics - I bought 2 metres.

The pattern is graded "intermediate" and I think that is fair.
Sewing on the bias is quite tricky, especially with a fine fabric like this one.
I found some of the instructions a trifle opaque - in particular the part where you sew the back and the front together, where the descriptions of "upper" and "lower" bodice didn't seem quite right.
But I got through it OK.
I would have liked to have used French seams, but wasn't sure if this would work on the bias, so I ended up stitching everything with a tiny zigzag, and folding under all the raw edges and finishing the folded edges with another row of zig zag.
It felt like making dolls' clothes! So many tiny stitches!

I attempted to finish the hem with a scalloped edge, but the bias was stretching all over the place. I believe I could have avoided this with spray-on starch... but I don't own such a commodity, so I gave up and just turned it under twice and finished with yet another line of zig zags. I used a lot of thread!

Turning the straps the right way out was a breeze compared to the trauma of pressing them flat. I had to separate the layers with a pin and inch my way along... through 4 chapters of my Brighton Rock audio book! Having finally got them smooth and straight I ran a couple of rows of (you guessed it) zig zags down their length to prevent a similar mess every time I wash the slip.

I don't know how I feel about threading the straps through the fronts to gather them above the bust: even in this fine fabric it is more bulky than I would have liked.

Why, yes, it is a very pretty little slippy garment!
But I can't see me wearing it as an everyday underskirt.
It is much more of a summer nightdress, with definite heirloom qualities.
I imagined I was sewing a piece for a trousseau as I worked away on this flimsy piece of nothing-ness.
It seems so fragile - as if it is the zig zagging that is holding it together.

Will I make another? I am not sure. I have the same fabric in a darker shade of peachy pink, and I know that it is far too see-through to use for anything that anyone will ever see! So this pattern is perhaps ideal.

I would never consider making Cinnamon as an actual dress - it is far too revealing.
Or maybe I am just feeling grey today ;)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Sock, a Hedgehog and an Octopus

On a day when everything outside was
dank and sludge-coloured, The Girl and I settled down to some dangerous sports: my juddering sewing machine on one side of the table, and her acrylic paints on the other.
Both the painting and the silk voile slip survived. We had a lovely afternoon. She even let me borrow her Crazy Band hedgehog. Have you seen these things?
Your challenge is to find the octopus!
The sewing is going well, although I am somewhat in awe of the delicate fabric. I have a feeling this is more of a nightdress than an underskirt, we'll see. Every seam has to be stitched and folded and finished with a tiny zig zag. I feel as if I should be sewing it by hand.
And as promised - the first February sock!
The pattern is Flaming Desire by Anne Hanson (Knitspot). The yarn is Hazel Knit Artisan sock in Hi Octang.
The colour, the stitch pattern, the overall definition of those "flames"? I love it!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

If I had no principles...

Aw... thanks to everyone who commiserated with me over yesterday's catalogue of minor disasters! Yes - there was a point (around the end of the farm road, with water dripping down my face) when I wanted to crawl back into bed and give up. But I didn't and I am glad. Hooray!

My eyes have adjusted to my 6-year-old optical prescription, so as long as I avoid mirrors for a week, all will be well! FL said he felt sorry for me until he realised I could see and my problem with the old glasses was vanity. Grrr. But if he was my age, would he want to look like his age? I think not!

Anyway... see those thumbnails? All images from the new Brora catalogue. Hopelessly small pictures, but can I just say: if money was no object and I had no principles, I would dress myself from head to toe in these clothes!

All very "Miss G" from Cracks!

Top left: textured linen dress with a bias cut skirt, pearly button-and-loop fastening v-neck and a tiny cashmere cardi.

Top right: OMG a shetland wool fair-isle cardigan in "nutmeg and sunflower" = gorgeousnessnessness!

Bottom left: printed silk flowy layered dress and a fine-knit cashmere stole (180cm by 70cm!)

Bottom right: silk pin-tucked camisole with matching french knickers and a fan-and-feather striped cashmere cardi. Ooooh!

Out of all these items, the shetland fair-isle cardigan is the one thing I would almost consider paying for. But not £98.
See that little stripe of pattern on the sleeves? Ooh!
It reminded me that I want to knit the Betty Jean McNeil cardigan. Or rather - I want to have it. The actual knitting is another thing altogether.
In oatmeal and tangerine with a pop of turquoise - ooh yeah!

In the world of actual knitting, I should have a sock to show you in the next day or so. It is possibly the loveliest sock I have ever knitted. FL thinks so. I do too.
I cut out my Land Army skirt and have "won" two WW2 "Civil Defence" buttons. I need four more, but I am working on it!

FL's INR has shot up to 2.6, so we should be all systems go for him to start Revlimid next week.
Another milestone.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The World versus Roo: World 1, Roo 0

Photo: These might be my new glasses

This morning... I overslept.
So a mad rush to get ready for work.
Snapped the leg of my glasses clean off.
Tried to glue it, but no luck.

Found 6-year old glasses and put them on.
I look like my granny, but not in a good way.
I think. Maybe. It's all a bit blurry, to be honest.

Got into car, and was halfway up the hill when the sun-roof seal apparently gave way and I got drenched in accumulated rainwater.

Stopped at end of road to dry off and consider my options.

Drove to opticians.
Sat in car park waiting for the shop to open.

Rang work to explain I had a broken leg and couldn't see properly.
Or words to that effect.

Handed glasses to optician.
"How old are these? 2007? Oh no - they're too old we can't fix them."
Too old at 4????

Saw myself in mirror wearing granny glasses.
Chose new glasses.
They're OK.
They might even be quite nice.
At least they are heading in the right direction and don't make me look 92.

I just have to live with the 6-year olds for a week.
There will be no pictures of me til then.

My car's "toxic fumes" warning light has come on.
Have booked MoT test for 2 weeks' time.
I will try not to breathe til then.

I had to park at the other end of the universe because I didn't get to work til 10am.
It is still raining.

So I am tired-eyed, asphixiated and damp.

It is NOT a good day.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

More (orange!) inspirations

Image credit: Wearing History blog

I am itching to get on and sew an actual garment, instead of cute little ditsy homewares.
The first idea buzzing around my head looks like this: wide-legged trousers with a neat shirt. Headscarf bandana thingy optional!

So many sewists have made those Smooth Sailing trousers now... but I have my Eva Dress trousers to try out before I go and buy yet another pattern! I have some gorgeous slinky navy fabric and anchor buttons in the stash for these.

Oh look - two-coloured brogues!
As for the shirt... hmmm. I have my bow-tied-neck blouses, my back-buttoned tops and my baggy Rockabilly blouse, but I have yet to find a simple "go to" shirt pattern for everyday, non-fussy wear.
I found this fab 1940's pattern on Etsy and was waiting to hear if the seller would consider shipping to the UK, when I discovered that Susannah was selling the same one, in my size - amazing!
So that was destiny, wasn't it?
I rather fancy that little over-top too - see the shape of the neck?
Or is it just the fact that it is orange?!
I think I have a problem.

The other garment which is whirling around my head is a 1970's skirt from my eebaay pattern deluge.

I really want to make the multi-buttoned / pleated version (top right).

My imagination is shouting at me to buy some satsuma-coloured babycord from Ditto, and finish it with black buttons. (Orange again?!)
My brain is telling me to use that weathered brown herringbone canvas that's in the stash, trimmed with metal buttons... maybe source some WW2 land army buttons?
Though sometimes, I admit, I do take things too far...

And then the Toast catalogue arrived and filled my head with a very particular shade of blue/green and the idea of multiple strings of beads in tangerine or navy or even ivory and ochre.

It's not the clothes themselves that I covet, it's the colour pallette. And apart from navy, I have none of them in my stash.

Maybe the beads are the way forward.

The orange ones!

Images: Toast

Anyway... Me Made March anyone?
Do I need the pressure?
Pass the Cointreau.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Practical Archaeology and a couple of FO's

My weekend is going to plan - amazing!

I loaded my car with bags for the dump and the charity shop - then realised I had a flat tyre so came back indoors and put on the kettle. Shrug.

All the more time to get on with things around the house.

I laid out my slip fabric but it kept slipping, so I cast around for something to weigh the pattern down.. and my eye fell upon FL's hen-feed-scoop full of prehistoric artefacts. Heh heh heh - the perfect use for my darling's ancient petrospheres!

So the first slip has been cut out and is hanging to "drop" the bias. I wasn't sure what size to make so only cut one, for a trial run, in a size 4 (US).

I remembered I had a free (via The Times)audiobook of Brighton Rock to listen to, so switched that on while I pottered about. It took me a while to learn to listen properly, but I was soon engrossed.

Next up: a couple of zippy project bags to hold my sock / shrug knitting-in-progress.

I have made these before but my brain was not fully-engaged, so I made two long and thin pencil-case shaped pouches instead of the shorter fatter versions I planned.

However, my knitting still fits inside and I can slip in an A4 pattern without "quartering" it - double prizes!

The fabric is a set of fat quarters from Fabric Rehab.

I was going to call it a weekend at that point and settle down to knit, but then I remembered the tea-towel trimming plan - why not?

So I used the same fabric, pieced it together in strips, then cut across the strips to make "patchwork", which I then sewed onto three new tea towels, which I had pre-washed.
I used a zig zag to topstitch the edges for added zing.
What a difference! I bought a load of these "professional" tea-towels from eeebaaay a while ago and they were just so ugly. The fabric is like those industrial roller-towels you find in public conveniences, so they are very absorbent and wash well... but ugly!
I was ironing them when FL came into the kitchen. He wore a puzzled expression.
"Where did those come from? They look just like that material that was on the table... you made them?!"
Um... yes! ;)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hi Octang NRG weekend

I am all fired up - watch out dog-face, I'm sweeping through the house with that vacuum cleaner!

I have made myself a menu of activities, all fun in their different ways:
Take old bedroom carpet tiles to veg garden and lay down as a weed barrier.

  • Take out-of-date pharmaceuticals to chemist.

  • Take bags of use-able stuff to charity shop.

  • Take bin bags of rubbish to landfill site.

Oh look - the Sofa of Doom!

Note hen feed scoop pan full of Stone Age artefacts. Don't ask. It would take too long.

*** Coffee break at the garden centre? ***

Trim plain tea-towels with fun fabric (not even FL would dare clean his shoes with them then!)

*** Cook something lovely, walk dog, welcome FL home from golf, drink a glass of wine***

  • Knit

  • Knit

  • Sleep zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
P.S. Myeloma update: FL's INR is now at 1.8. We need "2" to commence Revlimid, so it looks like he might be on schedule to start treatment at his next hospital visit on 22 February.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Not the Only Fruit?

I have clearly passed through my Green Period and am now immersed in orange.

Thanks to Teaandcakes, I discovered the shrug pattern "Summer Affair" by Carol Feller and immediately wound my yarn to knit a beautiful lacey shrug.

It is a mystery skein from my bag of Hipknits samples. All I know is that it is "kid mohair and silk" and it is 2-ply. I believe it to be laceweight but it may be nearer fingering weight. The label did not give any details about yardage either, so this is a bit of a risky venture!
First impressions are good: I have learned a new way to do a provisional cast-on using a crochet hook, which looks infinitely more unzippable than the "crochet a chain and pick up the stitches" method which always leaves me in knots with the wrong number of "unzipped" stitches. I have only knitted three rows so nothing to show as yet!

My first February sock is going well. I am finding the stitch pattern somewhat compulsive, and I was reluctant to put it down until I finished the first "repeat".

And in case you were wondering: the fabric in the first photo is the beautiful silk / cotton voile I bought from Ditto to make a couple of Cinnamon slips.
That's my project for next weekend.
Meantime, I am hiding jars of Vegan Vampyre Marmalade in odd cupboards to prevent FL eating it all at once in triple-decker midnight-snack sandwiches: I think he likes it!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Vegan Vampyre Marmalade

Time for my annual marmalade-making session!

This year, I thought I would show you how I do it, using most of the gadgets on my food processor!

Vegan Vampyre Marmalade

1 kg blood oranges
1 lemon
1.8 kg granulated sugar
1 litre water
A generous slug of Drambuie

Wash fruit and cut into halves.

Using "squeezer" attachment on food processor, extract juice from fruit.

The skins will be almost clean of fruit.

The next bit takes a while, but it's worth it: Press the pulp through the grid on the colander-like bowl , so that the pips are held back but all the orangey goodness goes into the juice in the main part of the processor.
Pour the juice into a large saucepan. A really big one - if you have a pressure-cooker or a preserving pan that would be ideal. I used my biggest saucepan and it was touch and go when the boil started to roll...
Using the biggest grater attachment, grate the skins. If the shred looks too rough, give it a whirl with the big knife in the main bowl.

Then add the shredded peel to the juice with a litre of water.
Bring to the boil and then turn it down and allow to simmer for two hours. Yes, really. Stir from time to time to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Skim off any scum.
You could cut out a dress pattern while it cooks. It works for me.

With about half an hour to go, warm the oven on its lowest setting and put in your clean jars to sterilise. You will need 7 or 8.
At the same time, pour the sugar into a big heatproof dish (I use a casserole) and sit it on the floor of the oven (the shelves are occupied by jars).

When the two hours are up, pour the warmed sugar into the pot - remember your oven gloves!

Stir well, bring to the boil and keep it rolling for 20 to 30 minutes. This is when you will be glad you used a really big saucepan.

Put a saucer into the fridge at the start of the 20-30 minutes.
After 20 minutes, scoop a teaspoonful onto the chilled saucer. You are testing the set. You want it to hold its shape slightly, but remember you are not making toffee, so don't leave it until it can stand up by itself. Put the saucer back in the fridge between tests.
Turn off the heat and very carefully add the Drambuie. It will cause the marmalade to boil up, so dispense your shot with a long-handled ladle.
Take the jars out of the oven, using your oven gloves, and set them on a tray to catch the drips. Use your ladle to fill the jars. Wide-mouthed jars are your friends.

Allow to cool before trying to move the jars. Screw lids on tightly once really cool. Some people use waxed discs to create a vacuum and prevent mould but I don't.

Employ a child to design your labels. Or do it yourself.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Inspirations: Ballet Lace Shruggery

Image credit: Still from Black Swan

I wish I had an "inspiration wall" to pin up all the images which are currently inspiring me! (Please don't tell me there is a web-based version: I know, but it is one step too technologically far for me - I like my pins sharp and pointy.)

First there was Black Swan with the deployment of tiny fluffy shrugs to cover a dancer's shoulders - cute!

Then there was a Guardian piece about 1920's fashion in Boardwalk Empire. I won't see the show as we only have Freeview tv, but from what I can gather there is lots of blush-pink, lace and nudity for the women (though the Guardian reviewer only liked the menswear, its "get the look" spread was aimed at women!). So the idea of ballet-pink lace was stuck in my head.

Then the ASOS magazine arrived (why?) and I spotted a girl wearing a jumper with a huge doily sewn onto the front, by J W Anderson. But when I googled it, I realised he is best-known for menswear: t-shirts with layered up sequins and doilies. (They will go down a storm in Inverurie.) Perhaps the designer had hoped that ASOS would stock that jumper in the mens' department!

Image credit: J W Anderson at London Fashion Week

The point of all this (!) is that it got me thinking about a skein of Hipknits mohair laceweight that is languishing in the stash. It is a kind of peachy apricot shade, verging on what I would call "knicker-pink". Absolutely NOT my kind of colour in the normal course of events.
Image credit: Knitscene Spring 2011
But how about as a kind of negligible negligee shrug-gy giant doily affair? To drape across my shoulders while wearing a silk voile slip on a warm summer Sunday morning, sipping coffee and nibbling a slice of perfect medium-rye toast and marmalade? After doing my ballet workout, you understand. I can imagine that! (Well - the warm bit is hard, but I can vaguely remember what it feels like.)

I thought of doily-ing around with crochet, to see what I could come up with, but I honestly don't trust myself to get it right. I am a real "fudger" when it comes to crochet!
So I had a look at my queue on Ravelry and spotted a shrug from that Japanese pattern book I bought a while back, with loads of good intentions. Ooh! But do I have enough yarn? Who knows! The pattern is just beyond decipherable - I need to dig out my "How to knit with Japanese patterns" booklet.

There is a lovely one in the latest Knitscene too - but in thicker yarn.

And then I spotted that Karie had queued a pattern called Veronique from "French Girl Knits" (stalker? moi?!) which used the right sort of yardage of laceweight - ah ha!
Image credit: Veronique from French Girl Knits

So the plan this weekend is to combine all these influences and see if I can come up with the beginnings of a garment.
And get on with sewing a couple of sheer slips too!
But whether or not I do any ballet remains to be seen...