Thursday, March 31, 2011

Betty Jean in Full Colour!

Look what I've got!

It's an argyll corset!

The good thing about spending a day on the sofa under a blanket is that I had time to knit. I had made three false starts on the colourwork, so I was very relieved that it all went smoothly this time. The striped section is where the steek will go - scary!

The inside.

I read up on two-colour knitting before I got to this section, so took care to do it properly.

Until now, I have been a "weaver". But for this project I followed the advice in Ann Fietelson's book (thank you Christine!) and held the brown to the right and the orange to the left and seem to have successfully "stranded" - woo hoo! A new skill!

I don't think I will be adding a blue duplicate stitch after all.

I am so proud of my even two-coloured argyll!

So - that's what a month of cardigan monogamy looks like.

I was just on the point of blogging about my relief that I could drop this evil project and knit socks again... but now that I have cracked the whole two-colour thing, I am keen just to keep going and make myself a cardigan.

Although... Betty Jean has outgrown her project bag, so I might need a sock to carry around with me for those odd moments : )

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Me-Making-March: a summary

My interpretation of Me-Making-March was about a reassessment of ME. So, instead of drifting along in a cloud of fug, I have been using the month for planning and sorting and setting goals.

Gathering resources.

I bought >a sheep-load of Alba Yarn from The Wool Shed just in case

>several metres of fabric from Croft Mill just because

>a few more buttons than I strictly required

>a packet of hair-dye (new "ultra violet" side section being politely ignored by work colleagues)

>an embroidery book

>two novels: Summer of Men by Siri Hustvedt (part-way through, non-commital) and The CookBook Collector by Allegra Goodman (not started) >nu shooz worn twice so far

..and a Will.

Yup, I finally got organised and went to the solicitor to draw up my Last Will and Testament. Have you done this yet? You really should, especially if you have kids and a second marriage to throw into the mix. But be warned - it is quite stressful thinking through the "what ifs".

I have made

>my South Riding Blouse, which I really like and have worn to work with Audrey and Bella. >a polka-dot Pendrell top, which I do NOT like, because I mistakenly thought View A had the same basic sleeve as View B. Err... no. I made the flapping-wing version. >and I knitted less than half a cardigan.

Lucky I'm not on piecework!

But I have taken this month to enjoy process a lot more than before. Because there is no race

Well fancy that - who knew?

In terms of craft-planning, my new fabric, buttons and wool are inevitably at the forefront of my mind.

Trousers are next.

I have been sorting out The downstairs "study" so that my mother can come for a few days at Easter.

It isn't a show-room, but it is now clean and tidy.

I am going to sneak a couple of pictures onto the wall when FL isn't looking. (He doesn't like "framed art" on house walls, "because that's what windows are for". )

For the new "guest room" I framed up some of my photos of Beauly, and some old seed packet labels from here.

And I have attacked the herb garden.

I forced myself to get into the habit of doing an hour's weeding / pruning when I get home from work. This has coincided with the last gasp of daylight and some good weather, so a start has been made. I just have to keep it up.

And I have been taking a little more exercise. The weeding. Dog-walking. An occasional bounce on the trampoline. Just getting out in the fresh air and moving around.

We have been having better meals. The slow cooker has been a godsend. And during the week I have tried not to resort to using the same old recipes. More salads, less meat - hooray!

And thinking ahead ...

Oh dear. I am not very good at this one.

Hence the flurry of activity you have just read about.

FL is really not well.

Yes, he has been at golf, up til now, but he comes home totally exhausted. He falls asleep at the table. Everything hurts.

And he admits it. That's the scary thing. He doesn't feel well and he is telling me, instead of pretending he will live forever.

So I am setting myself little exercises in planning for a future without him.

Even silly stuff like getting my pictures onto the walls is a step towards accepting the inevitable. ETA: Wrote this last night with added html to get para breaks. Hope it works. I am off sick today. When I move my head the world spins - fabulous! Don't tell me I have been overdoing it - you are not my mother! ; )

Sunday, March 27, 2011

FO: Polka Pendrell Blouse

I have been seeing so many Pendrell tops across the blogosphere recently, that it was inevitable that I would crack sooner rather than later. But I am slightly bemused to find that mine seems to fit entirely differently to every other one I have seen.

Karen is the current Pendrell Queen, having rustled up not one, not two, but three of these tops recently. And hers all have tiny little ruffley sleeves.

I have swooping great (bingo?) wings. I cannot explain this. And while FL says he thinks my version suits me "exceptionally well", I feel like it might be a top for an older lady. I feel a bit middle-aged in it. SOB!

Ooh look at that stroppy pose! Don't call me middle-aged just because I am 46!


The Pendrell blouse from Sewaholic. I made US size 4.

1.5 metres of cotton jersey with (tippexed-on?) spots from Croft Mill.

Lots of thread.

Nothing else. So economical on the notions front!

How was the sewing experience?

Well, I "took against" this fabric almost on sight. Those flipping dots are like sticky white vinyl and you can hardly get a pin to pierce them. Once you do, they shed white dust onto the plain bits of the fabric. Grrr.

Which is a shame because the base jersey is beautifully drapey and soft. It went out of alignment on the washing line so I had to cut each piece on a single thickness of fabric, as it was warping all over the place. I used my Bernina's overlocking stitch for the long seams and hem, and a plain stitch for the neck and sleeve bindings.

Did I like the pattern ?

Yes, I really did. This blouse is constructed rather cleverly to enclose the long princess seams and shoulders under the sleeves, so if you mess up your multi-layered seams, they are hidden from view - woo hoo!

The sleeves are double-thickness, which makes for a lot of layers on those pleats. Choose your fabric with care!

The only thing I did that wasn't written-in, was to extend the neck binding to make that bow-tie. I would love to take credit for this, but it wasn't my idea! I copied Jane, who copied Andrea!


Not sure... My daughter says it looks like hospital scrubs-colour and is too old-looking for me. FL loves it. Hmmm...

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Pome for Betty Jean

One row: two hours
Two hours: too long
One row: too tight
Two words: duplicate stitch
rip rip rip rip rip

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tweaking Betty Jean

The original pattern for Betty Jean McNeil uses just two colours. And I like that subtlety. After all, my original inspiration to knit this was a two-coloured cardigan from Brora.
Ah, but that would be too easy, wouldn't it? Following the pattern as written? Pshaw!
So with the body knitted up to the stranded section, I got out my 21st century colouring book and tweaked the chart to add a third colour. So now I have three colours to carry across every row: excellent!
I'm off to read up on colourwork and steeking...

Monday, March 21, 2011

WIPs: Don't Panic Captain Mainwaring!*

*A reference to Dad's Army, if you don't know.
Betty Jean is two weeks old! And I have just reached the bust shaping. So that means I am halfway up the body and "just" have the upper half (with all the colourwork) and two sleeves to knit. Bargain!

I have also just started the second ball of main- coloured yarn. I have two more - is that enough? This could be crucial because there is an awful rumour that AlbaYarn may not be around for much longer, as the spinner is in administration. I have a terrible urge to drive to The Wool Shed and buy up every ball in sight, in every colour, I love this yarn so much. Don't panic, don't panic!

In sewing news, my mind is off and running towards the next few projects. My Croft Mill order arrived and I have been pre-washing everything, just to have it ready to sew.
One casualty so far - some polka-dot cotton jersey was stretched out of alignment by the wind on the washing line and I am having a helluva time getting it to lie flat so I can cut a Pendrell blouse.
I am also slightly disturbed by the "painted on with tippex" look of the dots. They look like they are going to crack like the print on a cheap t-shirt.
It is entirely possible that this project is doomed, doomed I tell ye!

I am simultaneously planning swooping great sail-legged trousers and drapey shell tops. Not to wear together. Oh - and I have no pattern for the shell-tops, so I don't know what I am playing at, other than keeping Etsy in business. Scruffybadger is once again to blame for... oops... I mean the inspiration behind, my idea to make drapey cowl neck tops. I really ought to get my box of patterns out and use what I have.
And in the midst of all this feverish stitchy planning, the sun is shining and I have a terrible feeling of guilt that I ought to be out digging the herb garden, because the farm labourer doesn't have the time. Yes... but neither do I, unless I give up sewing and knitting!
However... deep breaths... the slow cooker continues to buy me extra "spare" time. This weekend we had a very successful Pork Vindaloo, a Mixed Vegetable Curry, and Caribbean Chicken and Pumpkin curry, all from Slow Cooking Curry and Spice Dishes.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

FO: South Riding Blouse

"I always send Chloe the bits out of the papers with my dresses in them. Then she can't say I never wear anything but my old red velvet, not that I really fancy all these blacks she buys me. I like a bit of colour myself, I must say. At my time of life, if you wear nothing but black, people might think you were too mean to change frocks between funerals."

Alderman Mrs Beddows in the prologue to "South Riding" by Winifred Holtby, 1936.

Photo: Sarah Burton and her top-stitched collar
If you look closely at this picture of Sarah Burton's coat from South Riding, you will see that this light summer coat has multiple rows of topstitching on its collar.
So when my Sunday-evening's viewing coincided with sewing a vintage blouse, also featuring this detail, it was only natural that it would become my "South Riding" blouse.

The pattern I used, Simplicity 3638, dates from 1940 and is unprinted. So all the pattern markings are provided by a series of perforations. Careful reading of the instruction sheet, or "Sewing Primer" as it is called, is essential. Seam allowances are only 1/2 " in most places, widening to 3/4" for the side seams... and there is no hem allowance at all!
There are five rows of topstitching on the front bands and pocket, and three on the collar, each 1/4" apart. It uses lots and lots of thread, so I am rather surprised to find this detail on a "wartime" pattern - but of course it wasn't yet WWII in the USA, where this pattern was published - duh!
I traced the pattern before I began, because its previous owner, Susannah, reported major fitting issues. I added 1/2" at the centre back of the body, yoke and collar "just in case", but otherwise I just did I was told in the Primer.

Pattern: Simplicity 3638, a 1940's size 16, 34"
Fabric: Cotton poplin from Raystitch @ £7 per metre. I had 2m, but 1.5 would be enough.

Buttons: 1940's plastic from Clover Crafts and Curios at eeebaaay

I did not use interfacing. The cotton had enough strength of character to stand up for itself, especially once the topstitching was in place.

I really enjoyed sewing this blouse. I took the time to sew each component carefully and with attention to detail.
I sewed the buttons on with orange thread for a little added zing!
In terms of the finished garment... I have an issue with the shape. This over-exposed photo shows the problem rather well.
Rather like the Sencha blouse, the waist darts and shoulder gathers combine to cause a ballooning effect at the bust. I imagine this would work well for a bigger girl, but it makes me feel "puffed up", especially as it happens to coincide with the slightly-too-wide sleeves. So it keeps sneaking upwards, to escape from my skirt waistband, even though it is a good length.
There are four darts at the top of each sleeve, making it stand proud of my arm. If this material was any stiffer it would be unwearable. I expect this feature is designed to accommodate shoulder pads. I haven't tried putting any in, but I might do so to see if they help balance the width of the bust area.
Picky, picky, picky! Despite all this apparent negativity, I am pretty pleased with my blouse. It feels genuinely "vintage", from another time and place. I have a lingering suspicion that I come across as Midge rather than Miss Burton, but maybe I just need to project more attitude when I wear it!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Inspiration

Drop everything!
Have you ever seen anything like this before?

Photo used with permission of Jen Thompson, the amazing stitchy lady who made this skirt.
The potential!

Remember that Clothkits Rob Ryan print skirt kit that SallyJoy sent me?
I have this crazy idea to try to reverse applique the whole thing into a "papercut" skirt. It is cotton, not ultrasuede, so there is immense potential for fraying and disaster... but wouldn't it be fab if I could pull it off??

Jen's work is absolutely extraordinary.

I just know that I would cut through one of those bars in the grid if I was to try this level of detail!

It looks as if it was done with a laser!

I do not for one minute expect to achieve this quality of finish, but Jen was quite taken with my idea, and the whole deconstructed vibe of raw edges.
I would have to line it of course... OMG my head is spinning! I need a strong cup of tea!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Worries of the World

I'm sorry I just can't do it.

I can't watch the tv news anymore. I can't listen to the radio. I can't even read some of my favorite blogs without a swift pre-scan for references to world events. Part of my brain has just shut down and says "No - you can't cope with this. It is all out of your control. And if the end of the world is nigh, well... goodbye world."

The trigger was definitely the television footage from an airport in Japan, where a wall of water was approaching a building. FL had the sound turned off, as usual, but for some inexplicable reason he chose that moment to un-mute it and my ears were filled with the sound of genuine panic, fear, mounting hysteria. It was too immediate. It was the sound of people who knew they were about to die. And there was nothing I could do about it. Absolutely nothing.

Yesterday in her language class at school, my daughter was asked to speak in German about her ideal shopping experience. So she looked up all the words she needed to describe a trip to Japan: all the wonderful clothes / shoes / stationery / Studio Ghibli items to be found in various cities and how she would travel from place to place. Her teacher was NOT pleased. To talk about shopping in Japan is apparently "offensive". On one level, I can understand where her teacher is coming from - oh, how shallow it is to talk about shopping when people are dying! True. But who asked her to talk about shopping in the first place?! And was it not an opportunity to talk about what might be lost to the world if an entire culture is razed to the ground by disasters natural and man-made? Nien. Verboten. Tell me about going into Aberdeen on a Saturday afternoon to buy a Justin Bieber CD. As if!

I have a recurring dream about wandering through a city that is a composite of all the places I have ever lived. Sometimes it is a desolate place with ruined buildings and people huddled round camp-fires, scavenging for food. The toilets are always blocked. I am looking for friends from the past, people I have lost. I dream about this place so often that it is entirely familiar to me. I am resigned to my wanderings. It is made better by knowing that every time I go looking for someone in my dreams, I do find comfort - not always where I expect it - and I have often woken up thinking I need to make more human connections, so that I have somewhere to go when I lose what I have now.

FL is doing OK. He has now added an antibiotic, an anti-fungal, paracetamol and a laxative to his daily diet of pills. The kitchen table is home to a teetering mound of pharmaceuticals. He went golfing yesterday... which means he is basically "fine". But I have a growing sense of unease, a feeling that reality is coming too close to my bad dreams.

So I am sorry - I need to change the channel right now. I need to absorb myself in a world of creativity: literature, fabric, yarn, music. I can't cope with the bigger picture.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shoe Stalking

I showed you an amazing pair of shoes recently - do you remember?

They are by Deena and Ozzy from Urban Outfitters and I think they will be fabulous with skirts or trousers.

Kind of 1970's?

But I was prevaricating. As usual.

Until I spotted them in the Guardian's Weekend magazine.

I checked with a magnifying glass - yes, definitely the same ones!

Scarily high in the back view.

Note how the model remains on the path and does not go onto the grass.

Note the immediate toning effect on her calves!

So one pair of shoes promises: elegance, fashion credentials, a hint of the 1970's, instant youth and exercise!
And they are tan which means they will go with everything (except my pasty legs, but that's what tights are for!)
So I bought them. Gulp.

They had their first day out at work yesterday. I carried a pair of flatties in my bag just in case.
Just as well, as I had to do the Great Cobble Dash mid-morning. Which is like pebble-dash but with larger bruises if you fall.
I love them! They are completely insane, of course, but sometimes these things just have to be done.
Here is my Me-Made March outfit for the day. My Vivienne skirt, 50's twin-set and me-made knickers. It's not quite right - I think the skirt is too long and lacks definition at the waist. Maybe I just need to take it in a bit and it will magically rise by a couple of inches. Or wear a big belt?
Anyway, I reckon the shoes transform this outfit from "eccentric frump" to just plain "eccentric". Which I can live with.
I am really looking forward to making some swooping flared trousers with long enough legs to cover the wedge. Not that I am trying to hide my shoes, you understand!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Slow and Steady

Half-way through Me-Making-March and I am deliberately slowing my sewing pace.

I seem to have got into the habit of trying to complete a garment in a weekend. Why? Is it some sort of competitive instinct which drives me to sew quickly, to have something to show my blog-readers?

This weekend, when the sunshine disappeared and snow began to fall, I realised I had no good reason to try to finish this spring blouse in a hurry. That I could slow down and enjoy the process; take my time to line up the three rows of top-stitching on the collar.

I could pause and consider how best to finish the back of the neck. I could just run a piece of ready-made bias tape along that raw edge... or I could take the time to cut my own bias strip out of leftover fabric, and hand-stitch it in place.

I came home from work tonight and spent half an hour sewing the darts at the top of the sleeves. Then I put the sewing machine away and got out my knitting.

My Betty Jean cardigan is also benefitting from this "little and often" approach. I only managed to knit one row in my lunch break today, but still that was one row I would not otherwise have knitted. One row to calm me down after a difficult morning. One row nearer completion.

Meanwhile, my head is buzzing with ideas of what to make next: the high-waisted trousers, the Pendrell blouse, the pencil skirt... but there is no rush!

Sewing and knitting as meditation. It could work!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Don't Look Now

Don't go any further if you want to avoid seeing my Sock Hop Club yarn!
I had an early start on Saturday, to keep an eye on FL as he climbed onto the roof to duct-tape the broken skylight before the snow came. Mission accomplished!
It was made rather stressful by the dog continually running out of the back door and then forgetting he could get back in the same way and battering open the front door with his paws. So that's how the old door got broken...
I set up the slow cooker for Chicken Dhansak (from Slow Cooking Curry & Spice Dishes) then it was off to the sorting office to collect my Sock Hop Club package - a combination of "boo hoo and woo hoo!" as I had to pay a big customs charge for the privilege of receiving wool from America. But it is gorgeous!
The colour is "House of the Rising Sun", a mix of magenta and tangerine. So soft! So pretty! So... expensive! I must find a project to make the most of it.
I have been sewing. There were a gazillion tailor-tacks to prepare for my South Riding blouse. The fabric is beautifully soft. Lots of details to check in the pattern, with varying seam allowances and no hem allowance at all. I traced my own copy so that I could add notes as I went along.

FL spent Saturday sleeping and watching football / rugby on tv with the sound off. I assume this was his post-dexy crash. He is complaining about a sore tongue, which sent me to google. Don't try this at home, kids. It makes eating and talking difficult. He says he feels "rotten".
I watched The Edge of Love while I knitted Betty Jean. 1940's cardigans galore - woo hoo!

It is Sunday now, and I have just received an email from CroftMill to tell me they have lots of new fabrics on sale. I clicked the link. OMG. I am about to spend my children's inheritance on material. Sorry, kids!
Hope you are having a good weekend ; )

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Week in the Life of Betty Jean

One week into knitting my Betty Jean McNeil cardigan, and I have shrugged off all delusions that I might finish this project within a month.
I have been working away at it, slowly but surely, even taking it to work to complete a couple of sneaky rows in my lunchbreak. Two rows is the most I have managed!
This is the finest-gauge garment I have ever attempted. Although I am using the same yarn as for my Audrey in Unst, the needles are a whole millimetre smaller. Stop laughing at the back - a millimetre means a lot in needle sizes!
But it is a satisfying knit. I love shetland wool. It feels like "the real thing".

I am currently on the "waist shaping" section, which is a clear marker of progress. Isn't it?

I may have to buy more wool. But not yet.

And I found the perfect buttons on eeebaaay: 1940's celluloid in dark turquoise. The seller had orange ones too, but it wasn't quite the right shade. These are perfect!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Sewing: my South Riding blouse

My next sewing project is this 1940's Simplicity pattern, 3638.

I bought my copy from Susannah at Cargo Cult Craft. I did so despite reading on her blog that this was the Pattern of Doom, the one that had her sell all of her vintage Simplicity patterns on Etsy because she could not take any more.... oops!

Here is what Susannah said:

"The pattern seemed to be a good size and a half smaller than marked. The neckline needed cutting down by 2 inches in order not to strangle me. The bodice pulled every which way. The collar drafting was just wacky. Finally my patience ran out. I stuffed the blouse into the box with the rest of the Pile of Shame, tearfully apologized to James for the needless slaughter of an innocent shirt and fixed myself a large G&T. Why do I do these things to myself? Why?? "
I have been warned!

The only positive recommendation I can find for this pattern on the web is from a lady at the Fedora Lounge site, who suggests it as the ideal simple and versatile 1940's blouse - which is exactly why I chose it! But I can't find a sewing blog in her name so the trail has gone cold.

Maybe I just need to, um, make it!

I bought 2 metres of printed cotton poplin from Ray Stitch, in a sweet ditsy print. I accidentally ordered the wrong colour. It was supposed to be purple and orange but when it arrived it was marked: "primrose yellow and orange". This is actually a good thing because I have some yellow 1940's buttons in the stash.

I am making View 2, the top right picture. If you look closely you can see the front bands and collar have multiple rows of topstitching, a detail I saw used many times in the costumes of the BBC's recent adaptation of South Riding. Did you watch it? LoobyLou sent me this link to a piece about the costumes: costumes. Sadly, I can't watch it as my home broadband is too slow to support i-player and my work broadband says "no". Do have a rummage around and read about the locations and the characters.

I was a hopelessly romantic child (surprise!) and the 1974 version of South Riding made an indelible mark on my 10-year-old soul. I read the book from cover to cover several times in rapid succession. When I went to Hull for University, I dreamed of living out on the Holderness coast and riding the rickety bus into town every day. But I never did. The East Yorkshire coastline has a special magic - as if time has stood still - and yet it is an area in constant threat of being reclaimed by the sea. If you look at the BBC "locations" page you might catch a wisp of the atmosphere. I feel quite... homesick. Which is odd, because I am from here not there.

So this will be my South Riding blouse. I had better get on with it!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

A Spring-like Weekend

This weekend, the sun was shining and I could almost believe that spring was on its way.

With the washing on the line, the floors mopped, and the slow cooker doing its business, I took the time to look around the garden, cut the dead wood from the herbs and let the dog run free.

FL is "Smoort wi' cal". In English: he is "smothered by a cold", and no, he doesn't have any antibiotics. This is not good. If he is not better tomorrow I must march him to the GP.

But he went to golf and wore himself out. After dinner he went straight to bed with a Lemsip.

Dinner: slow-cooked Caribbean chicken with rice and peas, from The Ultimate Slow Cooker. Fabulous!

I also rustled up a batch of chocolate cherry cupcakey-muffin things, which are vanishing fast.

No sewing whatsoever!

I spent Saturday evening watching World Book Night on BBC2, followed by Brideshead Revisited.

And I cast on for Betty Jean McNeil. Several hours of knitting later and I have a hem. I strongly suspect this cardigan is going to take a lot longer than one month.

I can't resist another close up of a crocus.

Oh look! Our old back door is still propped up against the back of the house - how lovely!

But everything looks better when the skies are blue and the washing is swaying gently rather than blowing off the line.

I could almost imagine planting seeds and growing things again.

The Chiltern Seeds Veg Book is on my knee as I knit. The secret is not to get too ambitious. I am not willing to spend every waking moment digging and weeding. I will plant some Tuscan kale, some purple sprouting broccoli and some broad beans. No more.

FL has given the farm labourer from next door the use of a plot of our land to plant veg for his family, in exchange for a small share of the crops. It's a good deal for both sides.

I am hoping he will also take on some of the hard digging of the herb garden, for payment in actual cash. I can't bear another year of evil looks from the neighbours for letting the area outside their front doors run to weed and seed and I just can't keep up with the pace of growth of the "rat grass" and thistles. I would so much rather be sewing or knitting!

Here's the result of about eight hours of knitting.

That blue line is where the hem turns over.

So in eight hours I have effectively knitted the first inch of my cardigan.

I might have to cast on a sock just to stay sane.

I hope the sun is shining wherever you are!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

FO: Flaming February socks

Finished on the 32nd of February! ; )

I really enjoyed knitting these socks. The colour was so cheerful, the pattern so interesting, and the texture of the yarn so much to my taste.
Pattern: Flaming Desire by Anne Hanson (Knitspot)

Yarn: HazelKnits Artisan sock, available here in the UK (though mine was direct from the US a year or so ago).

Colour: Hi Octang

Needles: 2.25mm dpns


Lovely! A great project for a dark and difficult month. The sock is slightly longer than the usual "crew sock" due to the long pattern repeat, but I still had plenty of yarn.

The pattern leaves nothing to chance: both charts and long-hand instructions are provided, with plenty of back-up numbers to check you are on the right track.
Anne Hanson's patterns are not cheap, but I definitely feel you get your money's worth.

She has a pattern for a cardigan which used the same "flames"stitch pattern: Leaving , which is a Twist Collective design. I am definitely keeping that in mind for a future project. Next winter perhaps? I would like to try one of her full-sized garment patterns, but they tend to be geared towards the dare I say slightly older woman? This one has a lower neckline and can be knit either as a pullover or a cardigan.

I need to get cracking on my March cardigan now. My needles have arrived so I have no excuse... other than the fear of steeking!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Upping the Ante

So here we are in Me-Making-March and I am making a genuine effort to... um... make an effort! I have been called "glamorous" twice this week! :D
Tuesday: (the day of Disasters) I wore all me-made: my grey/green Bella trousers and the dark red 50's twin-set. This is a combination that works really well. The high waist of the trousers suits the proportions of the cropped cardi and when I take that off, there is the cute little short-sleeved sweater underneath.
Wednesday: I wore my rockabilly rose skirt with a black ballet-neck sweater and my granny's "jet" beads. This took me from work to an appointment with my financial adviser (!) and then to the theatre with FL. OMG - hark at me with my high-powered jet-set lifestyle!
Thursday: Pictures at last! I wore Audrey-in-Unst and Aestlight over my new dress. Gasp! I bought a dress!

Forgive my gushing, but I saw this 40's style dress in the Brora catalogue last season and was so full of wist for it, but couldn't imagine spending £135 on a viscose frock. Whizz forward a few months and Brora announced their clearance sale and reduced this dress to £39! So all my "thou shalt eschew shop-bought" principles went straight out of the window and this lovely thing is now mine, all mine! Mwah hah hah hah!
I so rarely wear dresses that it took me a while to sort out how best to stay warm (bare arms,v- neck), but my green Audrey cardi goes surprisingly well with this "cinnamon and plum" colourway.

And at the last moment I realised that Aestlight is an almost perfect match - woo hoo! An amber necklace (a present from FL a few years ago) was the finishing touch, to distract eyes from my "glad neck", as my mother would call it.
I took a close-up to show you my new lipstick... but I had my nose in the air so edited the photo(oh vanity, vanity!) This was an entirely out-of-character buy, as it was really rather expensive (Chanel-style prices). But I needed a fix of everyday vintage glamour.

You can almost see my lipstick in this picture, if you click to make it larger.

It is Dusty Rose by Besame.

I admit that I was seduced by the packaging: a red velvet pouch and pretty gold case. And it smells lovely too - like honey and chocolate. As I only own two other lipsticks (and one of those came free with a chocolate bar) I thought it was a good investment.

It goes on smoothly, and stays put for hours, despite my desktop tea-drinking habit. No unfortunate colour-transfer incidents occurred: if my chin looks pink it is because my chin is pink!

Also seen in the background: my 2011 calendar from OhBara. This was my Christmas present to myself. It is so lovely I cannot bring myself to write on it! My office is so drab and grey and I spend so much time there, I really wanted to bring some colour and craftiness to my space.
Plants on my desk next!
There is a definite theme of self-indulgence and retail therapy creeping into this post. I do not apologise for this.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

My new BFFs

"Best Friends Forever", a phrase taught to me by my daughter.

In this case, two pieces of household equipment which I never knew I lacked until I had them:

Number One: A Doormat

Did you know, that if you place a mat anywhere near a door, people will wipe their feet upon it?

That's what I found out when I put a carpet sample just inside our front door, with the idea that I could stand on it while removing my wellies, and keep my feet warm and dry. What I hadn't expected was that everyone else would use it for cleaning their boots.

So I bought an actual doormat. What a life-changer! Now all the mud that used to make its way into my front room gets stopped in the hallway!

Number Two: A Slow-Cooker

I have Scruffybadger to thank for this one!

My mother had been enthusing about her new slow-cooker for ages but her talk of sweet n' sour Uncle Ben's pork chops wasn't thrilling me.
So when I read Scruffy's post about the joys of slow-cookery, I was intrigued.

For £17 I bought an Ecolectric slow-cooker direct from the manufacturer. It is a special energy-saving model that allegedly uses 44% of the power of a lightbulb to cook a meal!

I tried it for the first time on Saturday. Got up, chopped the veg, gave them a quick saute with spices, then into the slow cooker for 8 hours on Low with a pound of Lidl's finest cheap steak. (Sorry to all my vegetarian friends!)
I sewed all day. I even managed to get the bottom hem finished and walk the dog!
Dinner time arrived, and all I had to do was slice an avocado and hand out flatbreads to accompany the dish of the day: Cuban Spiced Beef (from Slow Cooking Curry and Spice Dishes)

It was absolutely delicious! Everyone cleaned their plate. No complaints about the carrot quota. And there wasn't even much washing-up to do!

I also collected a reserved library book on Saturday: Ultimate Slow Cooker and I have to say that I will be buying my own copy. Fabulous photographs and inspirational recipes for omnivores, as well as an excellent primer on how to get the most out of a slow-cooker.

I am expecting to slow-cook every weekend from now on, and possibly mid-week too if I can get the prepping done the night before and set it on a timer switch to come on while I am at work.

So, thanks to my two new BFFs I have a cleaner house, better meals cooked more efficiently and more time to sew - can't be bad!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

My March Knitting Project

So... Me-Making-March, here we go!

Can I knit a cardigan in a month? I am certainly going to try!

I decided upon Betty Jean McNeil by Emily Johnson of the Family Trunk Project.

The yarn is the same as I used for Audrey-in-Unst, Albayarn shetland fingering, from my local yarn store, The Wool Shed in Oyne.

I drove there on Sunday and sat outside waiting for the shop to open!

The shop assistant was rather startled by my single-minded determination as I homed in on the display of Albayarn, striding past all the tempting Noro and Rowan and Colinette - oh my!

I almost opted for the wrong main shade, as I picked out the colours in the dimly-lit corner.

Luckily, the assistant suggested I hold them together in the sunshine, to make sure, and just as well that I did, because what I thought was a dark brown turned out to be a heathery purple!

It is a difficult colour to capture - but this is "Trout", a brown with flashes of teal and orange and purple.

I am using "Pumpkin" and "Lochan" for the colourwork.
Although the pattern is written for just two colours, I wanted to add another. I almost threw in a ball of rich purple too, but realised I was being seduced by the range of colours on offer, rather than sticking to the project in hand.

I promise not to bore you silly with daily updates on progress, but I certainly plan to document this project at regular intervals, if only to keep myself focussed.

ETA: I fell at the first hurdle - I don't have the right needles! Ah well - they are now in the post, and I can finish my February socks!