Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Self-Stitched September: The Vintage Pledge

'I, Roobeedoo of, sign up as a participant of Self-Stitched-Sept '11. I endeavour to wear only me-made and vintage clothing each day for the duration of September 2011'

Woo hoo!
Do you see what I have signed up for?  TheVintage Look! 
Adding the words "and vintage clothing" to my pledge allows me to wear my two new vintage cashmere cardigans - forsooth!  I have been meaning to blog about them ever since they arrived, all the way from Vancouver.
No wonder you get a stiff neck, girl!
  And why does your hair look so grey?
My kind bloggy knit-friend, Gabrielle, found herself in the desperately sad position of having to clear out her m-i-l's house after she died earlier this year.  In the process, she came across a collection of vintage cashmere knitwear... and thought of me!  I cannot express how amazed, grateful and happy I was to receive her email, offering me first choice from the collection.  After careful consideration, I chose a dark heathered green twinset and a brighter pea-green cardigan.  I knew that these were the things I would be most likely to wear and cherish.
This is like one of those colour-swatch experiments!
I look ten years younger in this shade of green!
Both items were made in Scotland, especially for a Vancouver store, probably in the late 1950's / early 1960's, judging from the styles.  The twinset is definitely older, and has a very narrow waist.  It would be fab with a circle skirt!  The pea-green cardigan has quite a perky Una Stubbs vibe, with its gold buttons and interesting collar feature - I imagine it worn with capri pants, cat's eye sunglasses and a headscarf in an open-top sports car!

I have never owned anything made of 100% cashmere and I have been keeping these tightly secured in ziplock bags for fear of moth damage.

SSS seems like the ideal time to get over my instinct to "archive" these beautiful garments, and bring them into everyday circulation.  They are so wonderfully soft and warm and add a whole new dash of class to my self-stitched wardrobe!

So - Gabrielle, if you are reading this:  thank you once again!  I have a plan for a return gift... but it is still at the gestational stage!  ; )

And roll on Self-Stitched September!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Roobeedoo Remix

As the new month approaches, I am considering whether or not to "do" Self-Stitched September.  I have noticed a lot of sewing bloggers expressing photo fatigue, but it is hard to get into the swing of the thing if you don't feel compelled to show the evidence of daily outfits. 
 Photo:  Day one of Me-Made June 2011
I find myself at a point where I have sufficient me-made garments to survive a month without too many repetitions.  I already know from the previous exercises, last September and this June, that my big downfall is the warm woolly layer - which is crazy when you consider that I spend every evening of my life knitting!
The weekend's windstorm had me itching for a seasonal wardrobe purge.  I feel ready to do something radical and ditch all the "unhappy" items in my wardrobe:  the too-big skirts, the droopy-waisted trousers, the starchy 1990's work shirts, the mouldy shoes (which still stink of mildew after being cleaned and polished - ugh!)  Some of these items were me-made but they either don't fit or are just hopelessly dated in a non-vintage way.  I never wear them, or if I do I don't feel like "me" and catch sight of my reflection looking a bit slumpy with sunken shoulders and no smile.  That's no good!
Time for a confession:  at every key stage in my life I have found myself confronting the same character flaw:  I do not have the confidence to invest in "a look".  So, when (aged 17) I saw the cool girls mooching around the University campus wearing a leather jacket, vintage cotton dress, creeper shoes, jet black floppy-fringed hair and massive eyeliner, and looking effing fabulous, I responded by tying a length of stretch lace round my enormous mousey 'fro and buying a pair of black plimsoles.  Yeah, Roo, a real style statement!
My best style moment was probably Leeds in 1985-6 (aged 21) when my boyfriend gave me his black leather biker jacket and I got my hair cut into an edgey platinum blonde bob at Snipperfield's Circus, the (scary) arty hairdresser.  I had two pairs of black leggings, a couple of mohair jumpers, a black jersey tube skirt, monochrome stripey t-shirts and big boots. Less was definitely more!  I looked fierce!  And I have no photos to prove it, dammit!

But then what happened?  The pressure to find and hold down a job (aged 22 onwards).  I quickly learned that the boss would call me into his office to "turn around" if I was not smartly dressed, i.e.  no trousers (let alone leggings), no t-shirts, no Doc Marten's.  So I conformed to the accounts clerk uniform of straight knee-length skirt, freshly-ironed blouse, skin-toned tights and low-heeled shoes... and obliterated my personality in the workplace.
But you know what?  I am not that girl anymore!  I am Roobeedoo (aged 46 and three quarters) and I am not going to be squashed into corporate anonymity! 

There is still a dress code of sorts where I work now, but I have noticed that I receive only positive comments when I push my look that bit further, red lipstick and all!

Photo:  the day I pushed my look, Me-Made June 2011

And it occurs to me that, contrary to what you might expect, the person who has shot through the ranks fastest in my current organisation is the girl with the strongest look - and I know that her rapid promotion is due to the confidence she exudes.  OK, she is 20 years younger than me (and has amazing legs and a filthy laugh), but I am not aiming to emulate her, I am aiming to have the confidence to simply BE MYSELF at work!  That's enough - I don't want the spotlights thank you!

So watch this space.  This is the Roobeedoo Remix, Vintage Edit!
Maybe that is the focus for my Self-Stitched September!  :D

Sunday, August 28, 2011

FO: First for Fall: Liberty Print Sencha

Autumn arrived this weekend with a wild wind storm.  We had to move our vehicles away from the house after FL's car was hit by a falling branch.  On the scale of world wind events, this is a mere whistle, but it certainly signals a change of season.  I was determined to do some sewing from my autumn palette.  This fabric has been languishing in the stash for a year, if not two.  It is a Liberty Tana lawn, which I bought for a song on eebaay. 
The pattern is of course Colette's Sencha.  I made my first version over a year ago and it has become the top I reach for on days when I have an important meeting.  It is comfortable and yet smart - a good combination!

Pattern:  Colette Sencha No. 1007, made in size 6
Fabric: About 1.3 metres of Liberty Tana Lawn, bought for about £10 from Little Shop of Treasures on eebaay.
Buttons:  8 vintage 1940's dark green plastic cat's eye buttons for about £1.20 from Clover Crafts and Curios on eebaay.
How was the sewing?:
You would have thought I would know what I was doing, considering I made this pattern successfully once before.  However, I found myself puzzling over the instructions for the neck pleats.  I am quite convinced that the reason many sewists find the neck of this blouse coming up too high is because they have misunderstood how to bring the dots together and then stitch through said dots.  I have made a note on my pattern to say: "pinch fabric together to form a pleat on the wrong side, aligning the dots on the right side".    That's better!
I made a pig's ear of the back buttonholes, because the back facing is not interfaced.  On their own, two layers of tana lawn make an insubstantial ground for a buttonhole, and I found my needle wasn't sharp enough to pierce the fabric cleanly and move forward evenly with the increased presser-foot tension that a buttonhole requires.  So I made myself another note to change the needle and consider adding a square of interfacing between the layers of lawn, behind each buttonhole.
However, you can probably tell that the reason I made all these notes was that I love love love the outcome!  I will certainly make another Sencha!  And it will probably be in Liberty lawn again, because it is the ideal fabric for this pattern:  plenty of drape, soft and fine - ah bliss!

A work wardrobe staple!  It has such a wonderful vintage vibe and sets off my grandma's glass flapper beads perfectly.  At the moment, my caramel Eva Dress trousers are the best bottom-half match, but I intend to make a chocolate brown skirt to give myself another, more seasonally appropriate, option.  It is an exact colour-match with my Audrey-in-Unst cardigan... which is just as well because it is flipping freezing today!  When I finished taking these photos I had to run to FL for a hug to get warm again! ; )

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I do not NEED new shoes

Repeat after me:  "I do not need new shoes... I do not need new shoes... I do not need new shoes... I do not NEED new shoes..."

Got that?

Glad we cleared up that little misunderstanding ; )

All to be found at Ruby Shoesday in Hebden Bridge... you know, that town where I want to live one day...?!

Monday, August 22, 2011

FO: Daisy Baby Shoes

Baby Number One of 2011 has been born and I was forced to kick myself hard and make something quickly to celebrate her birth.

It is not little E's fault that I am having a mid-life crisis.

My recent flirtation with crochet  (roses for my tea cosy and pillowcase edging) made me think I might crochet a little blanket.  But there is no such thing as a "little" blanket, even if it is baby-sized!

 So I had a rummage around Ravelry and came up with this pattern: Flower Motif Baby Shoes by Lisa van Klaveren.

The parents are pretty traditional and rather well-off so I wanted to make something "hand-made" as opposed to "home-made".  Something that looks like it came from a baby boutique.

A plain cardigan would have taken longer to make  and would probably have ended up at the back of the cupboard, unworn.  If nothing else, I can imagine these being used to decorate the Farrow-and-Ball-painted nursery!

My crochet skills are pretty basic, but I got to grips with this pattern in an evening.  The sole was easily done, and it only took two attempts to understand the floral motif and its "double clusters".  My trusty "Blueprint Crochet" book was by my side throughout, and was a great help, even though the pattern instructions are written long-hand (in American crochet terminology).

One ball Sirdar Baby Bamboo
4mm crochet hook
Pattern: Flower Motif Baby Shoes by Lisa van Klaveren.


Too cute!  I think these make a good gift for a baby girl.

And it was a great pattern for improving my crochet skills.  I can feel myself itching to make a crochet blanket now.  But for FL and me, not someone else's baby!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Battleships, or playing with Coordinates

My constipated sewing brain needs a bomb up the derriere, so I decided to dig out my autumnal fabric stash for assessment.  I was surprised to find co-ordination... and actually, there may be something approaching a capsule wardrobe to be made from this little lot.

The following photos all feature the same gorgeous chocolatey wool / viscose mix to the far left.  That is because it only arrived today and I was checking its potential for matchiness.   It's from Little Shop of Treasures on eeebaaay.

Boom!  It works with everything!   Even if it looks like a different colour in every picture!

I want to make a brown pleated skirt, using one of these 1970's patterns.  However, I am horribly reminded of the St Angela's Ursuline Convent School for Girls' uniform.  Although I am now many many miles away from Newham, I do not wish to be mistaken for a truanting pupil.  What if a nun sees me and tells me off for wearing heels?!

The teal and brown plaid is destined to be made into some sort of pintucked blouse, but I need to make sure it is well-fitted.  I am not sure that the boxy Japanese design I had ear-marked will be suitable.  I can't stand it when my shirts end up bunched around my ears, popping out of my waistband and generally misbehaving.  I never wear my Rockabilly blouse because of this - tsk!

The green Liberty print is calling out to be made into a Sencha.  Even though I know I will regret making yet another sleeveless blouse so late in the season. It tones perfectly with my Audrey-in-Unst cardigan.
The other two fabrics are a flower-printed babycord with occasional grey sequins, and a pinstriped heavy cotton which is almost a flannel but is definitely trouser-weight.  I have enough of the cord to make a wiggle-dress, but I am not sure I would wear it very often.  I am hesitating over turning this into another Ginger skirt.  But it seems like a shame not to make full use of the yardage.
I've had Simplicity 1734 for a while now and I think it looks fab... in the picture!
Maybe I need to challenge myself and make and wear the dress.

So... a pleated skirt, a wiggle-dress, a pair of trousers and two tops?  This could be a plan!

Friday, August 19, 2011

End-of-week round-up

Back To School time always sends me into a spin of anxiety.
That nagging feeling that I have forgotten to do something terribly important, the absence of which will cause the sky to fall down.  It's all rubbish of course.  Life just goes on in its usual way and we get through it, even if The Girl had outgrown her PE kit and the council forgot to send her annual bus pass.

My stress was multiplied when I found a For Sale notice planted in my herb garden.  I know it is just a stupid mistake, but when I checked online, the estate agent describes the "rear garden of perennials and shrubs" as belonging to the Steading.  Err... nope!  Mine all mine!  Unless you want to do the weeding of course... ; ) 

In knitting news, I turned against my Mystery Shawl knit.  It is no more.  Pond-scum green with murky purple and lurid geranium red was never going to be a happy combination.  In large single-colour blocks it was hideous.  Rrrrrrrriiiiiip!  All gone!

But Seraphine?  Ah Seraphine is my favourite lady just now!  Scrunchy sheepy cables are slowly winding their way from my needles.  No instant gratification factor here, but the intensely satisfying feeling of gentle progress towards something permanent, a real "classic" piece of knitwear.

My flirtation with crochet for the roses on my tea cosy and the edge of my pillowcase has caught my imagination too.  Am I ready to crochet a blanket?  This has been such a long-term yearning, that maybe it is time to give in to the urge.  It just feels like such an enormous undertaking.  And I don't like having unfinished objects lying around for too long (Betty Jean -  stop smirking at me!).  I can honestly say I have nothing suitable in the stash, so it would involve buying yarn.  I wish I trusted myself enough to buy it and get on with it before it becomes another source of background worry.  Stitch-making is supposed to be fun!  A relaxation!  I wish I could stop treating my hobbies like work, with To-Do lists and Action Plans!

But right now there is a Top Of The List task to complete:  Baby One of three for 2011 has been born and I have not cranked out a present.  Come on Roo, get a move on, girl!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

More Autumnal Inspirations

 Brora strikes again!  The perfect cashmere fairisle cardigan. £289
 Note "tipped" edges just like Betty Jean!
 The perfect plain but slinky thermal vest! £32
Impossibly expensively beautiful aran cardigan! £339

Do you ever think you must be missing a decimal point somewhere?
I am so glad I can knit!

I might have to buy the vest though.

Monday, August 15, 2011

FO: FrIll-yrian Pillowcase

Sometimes, fabric knows what it is meant to become, and nags away at its owner until they listen and do the right thing by it.
Take this s-lime green floral cotton, with fine-line illustrations of chandeliers, for example.  I tried to make it into a dress, a sort of a-line pleat-fronted pinafore.  I cut it out three years ago, and then it sat there, on top of my sewing machine, refusing to be stitched.
On Sunday, when woollen shorts were just not going to happen, it caught my eye. I fell upon it, sliced it up, and made a pillowcase.
A pillowcase with frilly crochetted edges.
The resulting object will have its detractors, I know.
But it is mine... and I have made my bed and I will lie on it!

This is why it works:
I have a leaf-green lampshade to match.  In fact, it could almost be called a leafy chandelier!
I bought this item at a time when I could not afford it.  It was designed by Tord Boontje and is made of laser-cut paper.  It is the only "interior design" object I have ever purchased for the farmhouse.
Somewhere in the depths of my wardrobe there is a 16-year-old patchwork quilt-top that I need to finish.  It is the same shade of green, with primrose yellow and a deep rosey pink. 
Sometimes, things just come together.
Unknown quantity of unknown designer quilting cotton, rescued from an Amy Butler dress tunic pattern.  I think I bought it from Nerybeth Fabrics.
Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo dk yarn, from the stash.
What I did:
Drew round a pillowcase and added enough to make an inside flap / pocket on one side.  Sewed it together, hemming the ends.
Hand-stitched a row of blanket-stitch round the open end, using the dk yarn.
Half-double-crochetted one round (US crochet instructions for name of stitch.)
Then worked one round of: "single half-double-crochet into one stitch, then three double-crochets into the next stitch".  This caused the edging to frill.  This was not my intention, but I like it!  And yes, I know why it happened.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sewing Impasse


I  have had Simplicity 2654 in my sewing queue since seeing these trousers over on Flickr.  Gorgeous, yes?

But every time I pick up the pattern envelope I find myself sighing in a dis-satisfied way at the 90's-ness of the look.  And even though I know it can be overcome, because I have seen the evidence with my own eyes, I end up putting the pattern back in the box and picking up my knitting instead.

On Friday, I went one step further and cut out the shorts version, using a 1-metre remnant of  navy / black wool.  I was all set to sew, when the post arrived and what should I find in the Brora catalogue, but a terribly 1990's-esque pair of tailored shorts (£109).  It was enough to put me off. 

My daughter thinks there is no way I will ever wear these shorts, even if I make them, because they are too casual for work and too smart for home:  "and you never go out, so there's no point in saving them for that!"  I was trying to view them as a wearable muslin (to check the size before I make the trouser version) and had every intention of wearing them to the office with thick tights and my two-tone brogues.  But now I just don't know.

So I am stuck.

Maybe I will make some pillowcases instead.  That's a nice safe project from the backwoods of my queue!  I am going to crochet lace edges onto them, like these.  And I promise not to take them to work.

Friday, August 12, 2011

To Dye For

I am having some technical issues with New Shiny Blogger, so if things look a bit strange around here... that's my excuse!

Yesterday, The Boy and His Girl mentioned that they had been looking everywhere for tie-dye t shirts:  "So why don't you make your own?"  Blank looks, followed by excitement, followed by three hours of fun with marbles, elastic bands and assorted plastic bowls!   

The photo above does not do justice to their efforts.   They are really fab rainbow shirts!  :D

Meanwhile, I had to force myself to remember that they are not 8 years old anymore and do not have to be supervised, so I took myself off to the bedroom to photograph every single skein of yarn in my stash and upload it to Ravelry.  It's all up there now.  I cannot pretend to have forgotten how much wool I own.  Now I just have to knit it all.

To which end, I started Seraphine.  This is the handspun Gotland wool I bought from a shed at the side of the road on the West Coast last year.  It is everything I love about wool:  bouncy, natural, sheepy - yes it is very sheepy!  I am not concerned by its abrasive texture - this is going to be an over-garments garment.  I had forgotten how much I love working cables.

I have also been weeding the herb garden.  It seems to have developed marigolds and cornflowers where I had given up hope - woo hoo!  It is terribly wild at the moment.  The couch grass has launched a takeover bid and I can only manage an hour a day hacking at its roots.  I have done today's shift, so now I am off to attack the fabric stash.

Then I might sew something - imagine that!?  I like having annual leave! : )

Sunday, August 07, 2011

FO: Still Life with Tea Posy


Pattern: Rosie Posy Tea Cosy by Loani Prior, from The Knitter Issue 2, but now available free from Ravelry here.

Yarn: 200g of various aran weight yarns from the stash, including 50g of Schoppel Wolle "Kiss" (the nobbly bits), plant-dyed aran left over from my daughter's Staccato hoodie, Noro Kureyon and some Reggae Ombre left over from FL's rainbow Centuria hat/s.

Verdict?: Um... it fits! ; )

FL identified the need for a tea cosy, and my knitterly pride would not allow him to buy some ugly lump of padded polyester from the supermarket.

It was a very quick knit, though I laboured a bit over the crochet roses, as the pattern was written in "English" and my crochet instruction book is in "American". This might explain the sheer volume of my roses!

The pattern was designed for double-knitting yarn, but the ribbing makes it very stretchy and you can pretty much knit-to-fit. The Knitter's instructions had me knit the "flower bed" below the roses, but I see that the free version of the pattern uses crochet for this section, which seems like a much better plan as it is easier to work a circle to the correct diameter for your tea pot in crochet, rather than knitting.

It is, in FL's words: "a piece of nonsense". But I know he means that in a good way!

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Stash-busting Knits

I have signed up for the WestKnits Mystery Shawl Knitalong: Earth and Sky. If ever there was an opportunity to make a hole in the sock-yarn stockpile, this is it!

It requires three colours of fingering-weight yarn, and I have been watching fellow-knitters blog about possible colourways. 2066 people had signed up on Ravelry the last time I checked!

I love the graphic approach of Stephen West, but hadn't got round to knitting one of his designs until now. The design is released step by step, and you knit each section in a week, ready for the next set of instructions. Brilliant! Bite-sized knitting!

Being a very sad person, I used Excel to draw a pie chart for each size of shawl, to view the proportion of each colour used for each size. How interesting! I much prefer the balance of colours in large and small, compared to medium. Although it is impossible to tell at the moment, it suggests to me that the shawl is asymmetric, that Colour C is the background, Colour B is a "flash", and Colour A is a fairly regular stripe. Time will tell!

Now all I have to do is keep up...I am not supposed to show my knitting until the mystery is over, but I can tell you I am using Drops Alpaca in purple, green and red. :)

I am trying not to feel disappointed when I compare my "nugget" of knitting with the Wollmeise-users and the handspinners. Mine lacks subtlety. It might even be ugly. But I need to be patient and see how this thing develops. For the time being, I am feeling smug that I am using up three stray balls of yarn which had no previous purpose in life. OK... they were meant for mittens... but who remembers that?!
My next stashbuster is aran-weight.

While we were away, FL discovered the joy of tea cosies. Instead of having to reheat his tea in the microwave at frequent intervals across the day, he realised that a tea cosy keeps the tea hot enough to drink - well, who knew, eh?!

Considering the contempt he showered upon our old tea cosy, I had never felt inclined to knit a fancy one. The old one was mysteriously sprayed in gravy and then boil-washed. As you would expect, it no longer fitted the pot after that treatment and was quickly discarded.

I had long been hankering after the Rosie Posie Tea Cosy from Issue 2 of The Knitter, so last weekend I seized my chance and set to work. I had a single skein of Schoppel Wolle "Kiss": a bizarre novelty wool which alternates a skinny spiral with a big fluffy slub of roving at even intervals. I knew 35m was never going to be enough to make a tea cosy, so I hit the stash for the leftovers of plant-dyed aran from my daughter's Staccato jacket.

In one evening, I had the main body of the tea cosy knitted. I then paused to learn to crochet a rose or two for the top. I was worried I run out of red and purple yarn, and thought I should prioritise the floral tributes! The remainder of the cosy itself was knit in stripes of Reggae Ombre and Noro Kureyon. As most of the rest is lining, the matchiness or otherwise of the yarn is not important. Do you know how much yarn goes into knitting a tea cosy?!

And then, full of the stash-busting spirit, I was struck by lightning in the form of Seraphine by Lucy Sweetland.

Oh wow!

This is the project that my DK-ish handspun yarn from the West Coast (last year) has been waiting for. I know I said I was going to knit Shalder out of it... but I don't think I have the necessary yardage. But Seraphine? Oh yes, this is the one! ; )

What was that? Betty who? I was knitting a cardigan? Who told you that?

Um... yeah. I didn't even unzip the knitting bag on holiday.

Poor Betty Jean! I'll finish you one day, I promise!

Friday, August 05, 2011

August and Autumn start the same way

The first days of August have begun with heavy fog. It's not that delightful sharp-edged winter mist which drapes over the valley in feathery swathes like an image from Lord of The Rings, it's a dank, cold, thick fug. Guaranteed to turn my hair into a fuzzy ball and cause my car to stop and start, stop and start all the way down the farm road. It's enough to give me Seasonal Affective Disorder!

But it's a definite warning that autumn is on its way. Time to put away the patterns for cute halter-neck tops and check the stash for tweeds.

I remember purging my wardrobe when I performed the Seasonal Switchover. I already know that I need to replenish my stock of thermal vests. But I think I need a more planned approach to my cold-weather wear. I know that I need layers... so maybe I should sew items that are intended to be worn one on top of the other, but which still work independently?

The latest Wrap catalogue came through the letterbox the other day. I haven't bought anything from them for years, because they suddenly developed a very beige aesthetic and multiplied their prices by a factor of 4. But this time, a few intriguing pieces caught my eye.

Exhibit A: Long sleeved peter pan double-collared blouse with matching camisole undergarment: Liv, £79. Also in khaki or purple.

Through the joy of the zoom facility, I can see that the back frill, camisole and under-collar are a plain-weave fabric, while the body, sleeves and upper collar layer are in a fabric close to a dobby dot. I suspect that it was dyed after it was sewn together.

Ooh! I still have a large piece of white swiss-dot leftover from my Portfolio blouse, and plain white cotton isn't hard to find. I could make something very similar and over-dye it with that interesting murky brown dye I found in the kitchen drawer the other day!

Which brings me to Exhibit B: The over-dyed linen jersey lace sampler top, Kristy, £55

I have never seen linen jersey for sale by the yard, but Wrap seems to be keeping the factory in business this season. This one has stripes of different laces hooping the body. They also do a very simple lace-edged tee in this fabric.

By dye-ing the garents after they are made, all the trims match perfectly - well, duh! I can learn from this!

So I have two inspirations whirling round my head right now:

(1) To take a series of natural, differently-textured fabrics and trims, sew them into a set of layered garments, then overdye-ing them all the same colour.

(2) To take a single fabric and sew several mix-and-match tops that can be layered over each other, dye-ing some and leaving others natural.

What do you think? It's worth a try!

P.S. have you seen Colette pattern's autumn sneak peek? Could it be that they are going to release the pattern for the perfect Capri pants? And a boat neck dress? Swoon!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

What I Read on Holiday

No, I haven't stopped thinking about my holiday. Another week would have been nice, but, hey, I have a job to keep going!

As it happens, I have most of next week off, but it will be spent at home. The Boy is coming to stay (with His Girl) and The Girl returns from London. I will have a full house and I will have to buy and cook food - lots of it! And I need to weed the herb garden. Calling it a "wildflower meadow" only works for so long ; )

Oops - got distracted! This is supposed to be about What I Read last week.

The holiday cottage had a small bookshelf. There was a copy of "What I Loved" by Siri Hustvedt! That felt strange - like finding an old friend in an unexpected place! But nothing else appealed.

Luckily, I had my library book: "The Hand That First Held Mine" by Maggie O'Farrell. It turned into one of those compulsive reads. I had been dipping in and out for a couple of days when I realised that I needed to swallow the rest whole and digest it later. FL was asleep, so I curled up in the sun porch and read and read and read until I was done. I may have stopped for chocolate.

I then texted my daughter and told her to get a copy for her Other Grandma (OG), because she MUST read it! I feel a bit sheepish about that now, but I think OG will understand. A fair portion of the novel is set in London in the late 1950's / early 1960's and it reminded me so strongly of the bohemian community that OG describes drifting in and out of at that time. And when it became clear that some of the "characters" were real people, that connection felt electric. Did OG know any of these people?!

So much of the novel is about memory and the details that fall between the gaps. Things you don't realise are significant until years later, when it's too late to undo the course of events. How a photograph can be a candid snapshot of a moment or a deliberately "composed" image: and sometimes we don't know which we are looking at.

There is a parallel narrative, set in the present day, concerning a young Finnish woman artist coming to terms with the birth of her first child. I loved this character! I absolutely "knew" her, and loved her for wearing striped tights with the feet cut off and a "looped hem dress"... and meeting "incomprehension" from other more conservative mothers. Oh my! Been there, done that! The passages describing Finland might have been written by Tove Jannson.

It would ruin the novel if I were to "tell you the story". Suffice to say, the plot gathers momentum, and the reader is thrown backwards and forwards in time with flashbacks and more leisurely descriptions of time and place, carefully edited together. Cinematic? Yes, deliberately so, with a nod to the main male character who is a film editor.

When I finished reading, I was in tears. I found it emotionally draining, and yet uplifting. This novel probably won't win any literary prizes... but I know that I now need to read everything else that Maggie O'Farrell has written, because her style pulls me in to a fictional world, and makes me reflect on my own reality. Who the hell am I? Where do I belong?

And where can I buy stripey tights? ;)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

FO: Colette Ginger in UV Light

I have a Ginger skirt! (Insert parade of cartwheeling cheerleaders here.)

The first thing you need to know about this project is that it is a lucky fluke.
By rights, you ought to be looking at a crumpled heap of fabric at the bottom of my wheelie bin, as I sob in the bog.

Fact One: I had less than a yard of fabric and a pattern recommended for 1 1/2 yards.

Fact Two: I cut out a Size 2, despite measuring in at 4.

Fact Three: I totally disregarded the instructions concerning something called an "invisible zipper".

Fact Four: I didn't even try it on until I had snipped the last stray thread and put the sewing machine away.

This is what Colette Ginger looks like on 85cm of fabric. I cut a size 2 because that was the biggest size I could squeeze into the space available.

I cut it out and sewed the first few seams on holiday. But I had to stop when I discovered there was no iron to fuse the interfacing to the waistband.


Pattern: Colette 1016, Ginger. I made View 1 in Size 2 (but took 1 cm seams to hedge my bets!)Fabric: 85cm of cotton corduroy from Edinburgh Fabrics, bought a year ago to make a pair of baby dungarees. It is a lovely quality of fabric. The colour is best described as "ultraviolet" - a very light lavender blue, which in my opinion looks amazing in North light. The Girl will hate it: I am prepared for this ;)

Other notions: a 10 inch zip, because the shop didn't have a 9-incher, and a length of Liberty-print bias binding leftover from my 50's twinset.

The Sewing Experience:

I was so keen to get on with stitching, that I couldn't be bothered booting up the laptop to find out how to install an invisible zipper.

As a result, the subsequent instructions to finish the waistband made no sense to me whatsoever. The phrase "counter-intuitive" is guaranteed to bring me out in a rash, so I just carried on and sewed the skirt "as usual". And I had to think about it.

For this reason, I would question the grading of this pattern as suitable for a "Beginner". Though... perhaps a beginner would be less arrogant and would take the time to check the web as instructed... and therefore find the process a total breeze.

But I don't have a special "invisible zip foot" so I saw no point in confusing myself.


The cord had a tendency to fray, so I used bias binding to face the hem. This also allowed me to turn it up by only 1 cm.

It is interesting to note that this skirt is considerably shorter in its smallest sizes. If you are tall and slim, take care to check the length before you start. As it happens, I think this length is just right for me... but I am only 5 foot 3, so beware!


I love it to bits!

It was immediately obvious to me that this is no ordinary a-line skirt pattern. It has curves where curves are needed. Unlike every other a-line skirt I have made, it drapes beautifully. (Oops - this picture was taken after a day at work and it is looking a bit creased!)

The waistband options are really interesting and I intend to try all three.

The waist comes up pretty high, but it seems to work at this height. It remains comfortable when I sit down - woo hoo!

It is a sufficiently well-drafted pattern to look good in a plain fabric, while having the simplicity to show off a mad print to full advantage. I will have no hesitation in snapping up some gorgeous tangerine wool for a winter version... once I track some down!

In the meantime... I am thinking autumnal fungi! ; )

Styling notes:

I wore this outfit to work yesterday! No one said a word... chickens!

Lisette Portfolio top, blogged here.

Japanese pattern jacket, blogged here.

Grandma's fake jet beads and black glass earrings from John Lewis.


Kickers shoes - rediscovered during Me-Made-June :)

Monday, August 01, 2011

FO: Natural Remedy Socks

I knitted a pair of socks on holiday. They are not tricksy or fancy. In fact, they are not even particularly good-looking. But they fulfilled their purpose: they were the perfect therapeutic knit.

Alchemilla Mollis: Lady's Mantle

I started work in earnest in the car as we drove to the West Coast. Yes, that's right, FL did the driving. I needed something to distance myself from the experience. I am a natural kerb-hugger, but FL likes to take what you might call the "racing position" on the road. If he thinks there is nothing coming the other way, this can mean he drives up the middle of the road, straddling the cats' eyes. This terrifies me.

Echinops: Sea Holly

So I focussed on my knitting for mile after mile and tried not to listen as the car screamed away in third gear at 50 mph. It's not that he's a bad driver, he just has his "own way of doing things". It's a style of driving best-suited to country lanes and tractors. And you wonder why we holiday off the beaten track? Pot-plant we call "Mother of Millions". Not a herbal remedy, it is there for artistic reasons! ;)

And then there was a week of recovery, when FL slept a lot and I curled up in the sun porch like a lazy cat with my sock. It became a knitterly meditation. Row after row until it was done. And then another. I paced myself to finish the second foot in the car on the way home.


Pattern: Dotty by Irishgirlieknits, available on Ravelry here.

Yarn: Fyberspates Bamboo (20%) / Merino (80%)

I knitted the same pattern last August, when we holidayed in the same area. I know that the dotty eyelets would show up better in a plainer yarn, but I wanted to use this bamboo mix from the stash to make a summery sock, and this was the pattern that came to mind.

You probably can't tell, but the dots are spaced further apart as you work your way down the leg and foot. This has the effect of giving me forward momentum, knitting faster as I go, to complete just one more row of dots before I put my needles down.

So now we are back home, safe and sound and thoroughly rested.

And I have a new pair of socks. :D