Monday, April 30, 2012

May, you say?

I had such plans, such plans to get ready for Me Made May!

I was going to pre-prepare a few "outfits" so that I would not wake up at 2am in a panic about what to wear the next day.
I was going to sew more underwear.
I was going to line three skirts.
I was going to take in the seams of a pair of trousers.
I was going to make some lightweight scarves.
I was going to make some simple jewellery.
I was going to start the month with an empty laundry basket...

Instead, I spent the weekend weeding the herb garden, going to the cinema with my dear FL for the first time in (counts) 7 years (Salmon Fishing in The Yemen - harmless, deeply British middle-class topical rom-com, surprisingly recommended by a golf buddy) and making the Darling Ranges dress.

Mustard and mauve?
I don't regret any of the above distractions.  It was a great weekend!  But I have a sense of impending doom... which is ridiculous since I wear me-made every day anyway... just not in a particularly "styled" way.

So I will just have to "get over myself" and get on with it.  If nothing else, I have a great "to do" list for the month!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

FO: Party PJs

A Bedtime Story

Once upon a time, Cinderella was invited to a party... but she didn't have a thing to wear.
So she rummaged in the suitcase under her bed and dug out 1.5 metres of white dobby dot cotton and 2 metres of reproduction Horrockses print cotton from the V&A shop and set to work.

She used a Style pattern (2290) from 1968 to make a top.  It was pretty easy, especially since there were no fastenings to worry about.

She took the pattern in by a total of four inches and faced the neck and sleeves with plain white bias binding.

Then she used a Japanese pattern book (ISBN4-579-11053-6) to trace a pair of simple trousers.

The Horrockses cotton was a printed stripe rather than a woven one and she was very glad she hadn't paid full price for it as the stripes didn't follow the grain of the fabric and were the very devil to match up.

She used French seams for the trousers as the fabric was fraying badly.

She really liked the instructions for inserting the drawstring, using buttonholes at the front waist.  She put a short piece of elastic at the back of the fabric drawstring to give her trousers a bit of grip at the waist.
"That's me all set for a quiet evening with my book," thought Cinders.

"If I attach the lamp to the top of my head I will have plenty of light to read in bed. "

Cinderella was reading "The Understudy" by David Nicholls.  He also wrote "One Day", a favourite book of her sewing-blog-friend Karen.

"Karen!  I almost forgot!"  shrieked Cinders.  "She invited me to a PARTY!  And here I am reading a book in bed?!"

Anyone up for a pillow fight?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Greetings from the Land of Mud

So. Much. Rain.

Today FL's car got stuck in the mud.  That will teach him not to "off-road" in his vehicle, now that the fields are ploughed!  So he was grounded until I traced the tractor-driver's phone number via some complicated googling and an out of date Phone Book.  I now know that the tractor driver is 36 and listens to The Archers... yes, really!  It is definitely worth googling yourself every now and then to see what complete strangers can find out about you.  Hopefully by the time you read this, FL has been towed to dry land.

FL gave his cold to me and The Girl, so while he has been surfing on a Dexy-high, the two of us have been trailing around in a fog of gloom. She is at home now on "study leave".  No more classes to attend til September in London!  Eek!

In crafty news, I am knitting the vintage cardigan I showed you, from Stitchcraft January1946:  "Arrow-Head Stitch and Ribbing".

I am trying to work it in one piece, so cast on the back and two fronts on one long circular needle and am attempting to follow the direction to "mirror the pattern" on the right front.

Um... yes.  We'll see.

I have (of course!) ordered the Darling Ranges pattern (cheapest from Raystitch, when p&p included) and plan to divert my purple organic dotty fabric to this project.  They usually deliver quickly, so I might be sewing this at the weekend - woo hoo!

viscose jersey

I also had a bit of an eebaay adventure this week when I found some gorgeous bird-print fabric up for auction. 

So I have 2.25 metres of viscose jersey and 3 metres of bluebird print twill on their way to me - oooh! 

So much for not buying more fabric, eh?
bluebird twill

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Alabama Shakes Inspiration

 Did you see Later with Jools Holland on BBC2 last night?
 If you missed it, there's always YouTube, here.

And there will be a longer version of the show on TV on Friday night.

OMG -  The Alabama Shakes!

Brittany Howard is my new inspiration.

And is she, or is she not wearing a Darling Ranges pattern dress?

Probably not... but she has given me a serious Style Crush.

I want to power across the stage in leggings, sneakers and a Darling Ranges dress.

Failing the stage, I'll settle for work, every day.

Might have to omit the leggings and sneakers though...

But "powering" would be good!

Energy!  That's what we want to see around here!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

FO: Bettie's Pullover

Welcome to today's edition of "Random Poses With Farm Equipment".

Your presenter today is Ms Roo B. Doo, who would like to demonstrate the Cultivator.
Note how gripping the marker encourages an upright posture.

Climbing onto the discs is not to be advised.

But it is essential that your (Ginger in teal wool) skirt matches the weathered paint... and that your nail polish (Priti NYC Blue Sage) matches your tights (Mary Portas) which match your new pullover... and that your hair matches the colour of the sky.

Now, why exactly are we messing about posing with farm equipment, Roo?
Oh yes - your pullover!

Pattern:  Bettie's Pullover by Maria Leigh from Interweave Knits Winter 2011.
Yarn:  5 balls of Alba Yarn from The Wool Shed, colorway Moody Blue
Button:  Vintage and origin unknown, found in grandma's button box.

Process:  I started knitting this on the train on the way home from the Crafter's Ceilidh in January.  So it took me exactly three months to knit.

The instructions look very complicated, but they work.  My only word of warning is that you need to take care to pick up the loops on your short rows or you will get annoying holes in your garment.  It's obvious, but I missed a few and had to go over them with a stitch or two of spare yarn at the end.

I knitted my sleeves flat and at the same time to keep myself motivated.

If anything, I like it even more than I expected to.  It fits really well (despite early worries that it was looking a bit baggy) and the gauge with the Alba Yarn is perfectly acceptable.  I thought it might be too thin a yarn, but it seems to work with every pattern I throw it at.  This is my third Alba Yarn garment:  Audrey in Unst and Betty Jean both used it too.  As I just bought 5 balls of Honey to make a cardigan, you can see how much I love this wool!

The style is wonderfully vintage-inspired, but I like that it doesn't look "stuck in time".

It's my new favourite pullover!

Catching Up

Deceptive calm
It has been a mad week.
Bettie's Pullover has been my stitchy focus and I have reached the section headed "Finishing" - woo hoo!
This weekend I have been sewing up my Pyjama Party set... but I can't show you that until the Big Reveal on the 28th when all the Party People have a rave together - exciting!

Snapdragon from Priti NYC
I have healthy nail polish!  Snapdragon turned out to be rather brighter than I expected - and just wait til I show you Blue Sage!

Mud - we have lots of it
In mud news, the fields have been ploughed:  a farmer from 7 miles away is using our land for barley.  He does all the work and takes all the financial risks and in return we get... the view!

This is a great deal for us.  FL is certainly not fit for such physical work and I wouldn't know where to begin.  It is not good for the land to lie fallow for too long and we can't afford to contract out the whole cycle of ploughing / sowing / harvesting.  We lost a lot of money the last time we tried.

However, this means we have to be more creative when walking the dog, to find new routes avoiding 18-inch-deep ruts and opportunities to roll in slime and pick up ticks.  Nice!

FL has a horrible cough and took to his bed yesterday, but may have perked up a bit today.
The Girl's exams start this week.
Did I tell you she has decided to move to London for 6th Form?
And we have mallard ducks nesting down by the pond!
Disturbed ducks
So... yeah.  Mad week.
Gotta go - Bettie needs my attention!

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Quest for a Golden Cardigan

Ariann by Bonne Marie Burns
With Bettie's Pullover almost finished, my mind is already turning to the next big project:  a yellow cardigan.
I showed you Lorna Suzanne, and she remains top of my wish-list.  But she is essentially a worsted-weight style.  This is supposed to be a summer cardigan.

teeny tiny Boden cardi

Which also rules out Ariann, even though I have had my eye on that pattern for years.  There is a cotton cardigan in the latest Boden catalogue which brought this one to mind. 

Camber by Jessamyn Leib

Leaving by Anne Hanson
Flicking through my mental archives, there are two fingering-weight patterns in my queue:  Leaving by Anne Hanson and the Camber Cardigan by Jessamyn Leib.

Both lovely!

I would give Camber long sleeves and Leaving a higher neck.

Stitchcraft vintage pattern

And of course... there are my vintage Stitchcraft patterns - oooh!  How could I forget my plan to knit a "real" vintage pattern?

I didn't tell you that FL and I had a trip out to Oyne last weekend.  We had lunch at Touched by Scotland (lovely food, but out of FL's price comfort zone, so "we won't be doing that again") and then popped next door to The Wool Shed...  where of course I bought some Honey-coloured Alba Yarn to knit my cardigan!

So the yarn is chosen... now I just have to decide on the pattern?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Getting ready to Paaa-rrrr-tay!

I have been preparing my patterns and fabric for Karen's Pyjama Party - woo hoo!
Did you know over 100 sew-ers have  signed up?  The thought makes my head spin!

I have decided to use a vintage nightdress pattern for the top.

I had planned to make a cotton jersey camisole:  quick, easy... but when I came across this pattern (Style 2290 from 1968) from Janet's stash, my fate was sealed!

The pattern suggests "dotted swiss" as a suitable fabric, and as I already had 1.5 metres of white dobby dot in the house I decided to do the decent stash-busting thing, instead of ordering new material. 

I had 4 inches to "lose" across the bust, so took the opportunity to custom-fit the yoke and sleeves too.  When I came to shorten the mini-dress into a top, I discovered that the previous owner had made the same alteration, marking the pattern at 18 inches below the underarm, exactly where I planned to cut!  Spooky!

My pyjama bottoms will be traced from a Japanese pattern, from the first Japanese book I ever bought, "Linen and Cotton Volume 1".

The fabric came from the Victoria and Albert Museum shop and is a reproduction Horrockses' print.  I had intended to make a blouse, but when it arrived it just screamed "pyjamas" at me!

I think the two fabrics  go really well together and look quite "1960's".
I am having such fun with this project!
Are you joining the party?
Anyone else going for a vintage vibe?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

FO: I May Be Batty... and a Japanese Pattern Blouse

Ta na na na na na na na - Bat-ManWing!

Pattern:  The blouse on page 82 of Female Spring 2012, size M
Fabric:  2 metres of very fine silky-feeling cotton from Croft Mill a year or so ago, approx £6 per metre
Other:  Vintage Schwanda "Ocean Pearl" buttons from Clover Crafts and Curios on eebaay; interfacing for front bands, collar and cuffs; thread.

This was a trace-and-sew Japanese pattern with very clear diagrams showing you how it all fits together.  If you've ever used a Burdastyle magazine successfully you have the necessary skills / experience to sew this blouse.

The batwing sleeve construction was really interesting: you sew the shoulder seam down the arm, then attach the sides of the sleeves to the side fronts, sewing from the front bottom hem over the shoulder to the back bottom hem. Then you flip it round and sew the under-arm seams, aligning them to the pre-hemmed front and back body pieces. Genius! 

No, I don't know what I was doing either.

Hmmm - maybe this is why Japanese pattern books provide illustrations instead of long-winded instructions!

I took my time and sewed it little by little across the past week.  I got through an enormous amount of thread, as there are double-rows of gathers everywhere:  back and front yokes, shoulders and cuffs.

I was very pleased with my buttonholes until I realised my chosen buttons didn't go through.  Luckily I had these in the button box from a previous eebaay splurge.


This is a totally new style for me. 

There is something kimono-like in the way the finished garment hangs.

FL says it's a maternity dress. Thanks, darling! But we both agree it is a remarkably neat fit around the neck and shoulders for such a billowing garment.
It would make a beautiful bed-jacket if you are looking for something a bit different for a pyjama party!

It seems to bring out my silly side.  Inhibitions?  What are they?

Compulsory back view, with extra wingspan
Ahem... where was I?
Oh yes - when will I wear it?
It is definitely not the first thing I would reach for if I had a meeting with the Big Boss.  I might consider wearing it if I was delivering training to colleagues with a proven sense of humour... though I would have to tone down the bottom half a few notches!

Yes, I am going grey, thank you ;)
I think its natural environment is somewhere slightly bohemian like a Degree Show at an art college, or a Fringe theatre performance.  But I don't tend to frequent either of those venues on a regular basis....

Which I think brings me to the conclusion that this is a "going out" top that I will keep in my wardrobe for those extremely-rare but not entirely non-existent evening-invitation occasions when I tend to panic about having nothing suitable to wear.

I have something now!  And if I keep my arms by my sides it might even come across as quite... demure?

Yay!  I filled a gap in my wardrobe without even planning it!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Nailing it: Polishing Up My Act

Every year about this time, I get the urge to crack open a bottle of polish and sport colourful nails.  And the notion lasts a couple of weeks, until my lifestyle intervenes and I realise I can't be bothered with the upkeep of my home-manicure, let alone pedicure.  I spend too much time wrist-deep in hot soapy water / mud!

I have never been to a nail salon.  When I lived in London, fancy nails were all the rage.  My daughter's keyworker at nursery school had the MOST amazing nails ever, with tiny caribbean sunsets painted on them, embedded "diamonds", golden tips, stunning crescent moons... all deeply unnatural but absolutely eye-catching!  Dalston was the place for nail salons back then.  Maybe it still is?

But my flirtation with nail art stretches no further than the occasional wedding-induced coat of paint.  Three summers ago I bought a bargainous multi-pack of Butter London polishes (5 for £10) and at various times since I have tried out all the colours on hands or toes... and they made me smile, they really did!  But all good things must come to an end and they have all started separating and drying out.

So, with Me Made May around the corner, and my pledge to try a bit harder with my "look", I thought it might be time to re-grow my picked-at mis-shapen nails and invest in a few fresh nail polishes.

Now... you may not have heard of Butter London.  The reason I chose them back in 2008/9 was that they are "3 free".  From their own website:  "butter LONDON products are formulated without the use of the harmful ingredients like Formaldehyde, Toluene, DBP or Parabens. butter LONDON was the first company to sell non-toxic nail lacquer in the United States."

You hadn't thought of nail polish as being toxic?  Just think of the smell!  It is evil stuff!  Those poisons leach into your body in the same way that the chemicals in a mother's hair dye can reach an unborn child.  I realise I am sounding a bit preachy, but this stuff bothers me!

So if I am going to paint my nails (an unnatural activity, I admit) I at least want to choose my polish responsibly.

Time has passed, so I thought I would have a look to see what is available nowadays:

Jaffa, £12

Butter London is still around and still making amazing fashion colours.  I fancy Jaffa.

But I also discovered a new high-end brand, Scotch Naturals which is based in the USA but has given its colours suitably Scottish-inspired names.  The name of the colour is very important, don't you think?  If only I could have a job inventing the names for colours...!

It is available in the UK from a couple of websites.
It is even "cleaner" than Butter London, containing only: "water, acrylic polymer emulsion, butoxy diglycol and non-toxic colorants".  Inevitably it requires special care - but there are instructions for the perfect finish on the website which sound very therapeutic and soothing!
Velvet Kilt, £13.50

I really like the look of Velvet Kilt:  a deeply mysterious purple!
You will have noticed that neither of these options is cheap... but I definitely view this as a luxury one-off pampering purchase.

I did find some cheaper brands:  Suncoat Girl is aimed at kids and costs £5.99.  It also "peelable".  I really truly cannot bear the thought of peeling off my nail colour - shudder! 

The adult range, Suncoat, is £7.95, but the colours are very pedestrian.  (Or grown-up, depending on your point of view!)

Boosily looks like another teen-targetted range, but I am attracted to two of their colours:  Sweet Tangerine and Blue Dragon.  At £5.75 each, it might be worth trying. (Ingredients for the blue one:  Water (60%); dibenzoate, monoether, copolymer, mica, iron oxide, titanium dioxide, carmine, ultramarine.)

Sweet Tangerine
Blue Dragon

 I bet there aren't many kids buying this stuff for themselves - it will be their guilty green parents who buy it as presents, to attack the ranks of Barry M and Collection 2000 polishes their teens snap up at Superdrug!  (Ask me how I know...?!)

My next Google hit was Priti polish.  Ooh!  Now this is very attractively-marketed. 

It was launched with a mission statement: "to support organic farmers and decrease the amount of chemicals poisoning the earth and it’s inhabitants-one manicure at a time. Priti NYC are all completely non-toxic & made without toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DHB) and formaldehyde."

There are some beautiful shades on the American website.  It is quite hard to find in the UK.... but I tracked it down for £9 here.  I am seriously tempted to try this brand.

 Starry Trail Violet is a delicious nude.

California Bluebell is.... blue!
Etoile Violet is the colour of  my velvet shorts  ;)

And Snapdragon is a relatively-subdued orange /coral.

Have any of you tried any of these brands?  Do you seek out "green" nail polish... or does Rimmel do the job for you?

Of course... you might all be polish-refuseniks, like I am myself most of the time.  But I just fancy a little bit of a flirtation with this.  It's fun dammit!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Me Made May

'I, Roobeedoo of Roobeedoo, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '12. I endeavour to wear me-made outfits each day for the duration of May 2012'

Ok, so Me-Made Self-stitched challenges?  "Been there, done that, bought the postcard"... except... I look back on my old photos and I don't always like what I see.  It's time to up the volume and treat it more like a fashion challenge. 

I want to see myself wearing outfits and not just odd garments that I happen to have made and slung together in random combinations.  So I want to see evidence of accessories, make-up, nice hair, clean shoes... I want to look like I made the effort.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

And my knitting plans...?

What skinny arms you've got, Bettie!
Bettie's Pullover is approaching the finishing line!
I say these things, and it comes back to haunt me... I probably won't finish it this month after saying that!
But seriously, it has been a very pleasant and speedy (for me) knit.  I am knitting the yoke. 

I'm not discussing the Portti Sukat socks.  I'm not in the mood (and I lost the needles somewhere...)

What next?

You will have gathered that I would like another cardigan.  My notebook-of-all-knowledge informs me that I disposed of my shop-bought black cardigan in March 2011 and did not replace it.  But I am a shocking prevaricator.  And a liar to boot... because when I said I only had three cardigans to my name I didn't count my vintage twinset-cardi, Betty Jean or Manon.

What's that about, eh, Roo?

Maybe what I was trying to say was that I felt the need for another spring / summer-appropriate cardigan.  While I have sufficient Albayarn in the colourway Crow (black) to knit a vintage-pattern cardi, it would not be terribly spring-like.  I am thinking yellow.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.
Lorna Suzanne
Lorna Suzanne
So I saw Lorna Suzanne and was smitten:  yellow (obviously it's not compulsory!), kinda vintagey, lots of interesting details.  Oh, and 7 x £7.99 to knit using the original yarn (£56 plus p&p from Loop London).
A UK-sourced yarn would be a better ethical choice (no air  miles).  Maybe something from John Arbon?  (4 x £8.95 = £36)

I am capable of thinking about this for at least a year before I buy the wool.
Pike's Mitts
Issue 7 of Knit Now magazine was waiting on the doormat when I returned from holiday and there were some deeply childish happy-skips when I saw that it included a Jared Flood mitt pattern which I had been ogling on Ravelry:  Pike's Mitts.

Why has only one person (other than the designer) knitted these so far?
I have ordered some Hebridean Harris Wool to knit these and a matching hat.  It'll soon be Christmas, after all.
The same magazine has a sock pattern I rather like, and some truly lovely knitted toys, in a special supplement, if you like that sort of thing.  I don't, personally, but even I can see the attraction of a stripey owl-and-pussycat set!
owl, pussycat and Betula socks