Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cutting the Mustard

Wednesday already?
Where has the week gone?
The Girl has gone home to London and tomorrow I am back at work.
She is doing fine.  More than fine - she is happy!  She has friends, she likes College and is able to be herself there, and they are working her hard at subjects she enjoys.  I could not wish for anything more, other than to be 16 again myself.  But no, actually, once is enough.

Back to my sewing machine.

Today I made a start on my mustard cord skirt.

The pattern is Simplicity 5351 from 2003.  It came in a box of mystery patterns bought on ebay for  not very many £s.  I am making View F in size 10, using the pieces from View E to cut my lining - clever, huh?

As the pattern is old, but not vintage, I can't find many reviews of it online.  Its strongest claim to fame seems to be as a recommended pattern for  sewing Hogwarts Uniform cosplay skirts.

As you can imagine, there is a lot of bulk where the flaps and the pleats hit the waistband, but I am going to grade the layers with severity and hope that all will be well.  It is definitely a better plan than trying to use the fabric to make another Kelly skirt.

There is a strong current of anti-mustard feeling in my family.  FL thought I was cutting up the dog's bedding when he saw me laying out the pieces.  The Girl said nothing, but her eyebrows are very expressive.

Jessica understands. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Fly-Past Post

THIS was not supposed to happen!

It took The Girl 7 hours to get here from London, after they closed Aberdeen airport on Friday night to clear the runway of snow.  We struggled to get the car up the hill in blizzard conditions, but we got her home safe and sound at 11pm. 

It would have been quicker to fly to New York!

Luckily, it has melted away now, and The Girl has gone into town to meet up with her buddy from Scottish school-days.

I am about to cut out my mustard skirt, using a pattern which is recommended for Hogwarts School uniform costume-makers.

Hmm... is this a terrible mistake?  I am distracting myself in blogland while I gather my courage.

I made a start on some Christmas knitting.

Some of it refuses to be photographed, so you get the freaky special-effects version!

Back to the mustard cord.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mixing It: Patterns and Prints

I suspect my sewing time will be limited this weekend, with the excitement of a visit from The Girl - yay!
But it doesn't stop me thinking about sewing.
It is snowing today.  Not much, but quite persistently, and I take it as a warning:  winter is imminent!
I have been managing to get by with my current wardrobe, but it requires me to stay firmly on top of the washing.

A Domestic Note:
I usually only run the washing machine on Friday and Saturday nights, once FL has gone to bed.  He can't stand the disturbance caused by the machine which is in the kitchen / sitting room, and because of his nocturnal writing habits and my 9 to 5 job, the best compromise I can find is to have a routine of one light and one dark wash on the nights when he is most likely to be asleep longest (the Post-Dexy Crash). Sometimes I sneak in an extra daytime wash on a Saturday if he goes to the Golf Club to see his pals - I am such a rebel!
Where was I?
So, yes, I am coping with my 5-top wardrobe, but it is precarious.  As noted on so many occasions, I need more long-sleeved tops, and I want to make them rather than resort to retail.

So now we reach the real topic of today's post:  prints, and the mixing of them.  I need help!

I love the Airelle blouse pattern, but I can't seem to pin down a combination of main fabric and collar/cuff contrast that doesn't look like some sort of uniform.  And having the collar in the same fabric as the body looks dangerously "home-made" in this style.  Why is that?  Maybe it's the darts.  Shop-bought tops aren't that shape are they?
So... let's say I use this remnant of Black Watch brushed cotton in the stash as my starting point (far left). 
I have enough fabric to make the back and front of an Airelle and perhaps the cuffs, but definitely not the sleeves.  So I have been trying to find something to balance well with the tartan in both colour and weight, to use for the sleeves and collar.  And I am stumped.
This picture shows the Black Watch next to the Liberty print I used for my Sencha and some purple cotton.  Although I think the colours go well together, I can imagine the Liberty with the purple, but not with the tartan.  And I am not sure about the purple with the tartan either!
It ought to work with navy or dark green or black, or a print that uses some or all of those colours.  But I am struggling to judge the scale, and whether different textures will work together in the same garment.
For example, I could buy a piece of this Liberty Tana lawn (Morvern's Secret).  But would the fabric be too lightweight and the print too big?
Tell me, what are the secrets to mixing prints, or indeed colours, within the same garment?
There are a few sewing bloggers out there who seem to do this effortlessly.
I came across a French-language sewing  blogger last night with awe-inspiring print-mixing skills.
But if I did this, I fear I would look like an overgrown toddler.

What do you think, oh style gurus?

Am I approaching this the wrong way?  Should I just buy enough fabric in the first place and add a plain coloured collar to a patterned blouse and patterned to a plain, picking out a colour from the pattern for the plain?

Or is there a secret to mixing it up with prints?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Middle Age Fabrics

I have to share!
I was scouring the web for good-quality jersey fabric with which to clothe my shivering bones, when I found a company based in Germany which sells some most attractive-looking material, and include the following sections in their website:

And I fully expected that when I clicked the highlighted link, I would find the sort of fabrics you might use for a historical re-enactment...

But when I looked, I wasn't sure.  This could be fabric specially selected for the stereotypical middle-aged customer!  Mother of the Bride?  Look no further!  Jacquard, wool, lace, linen, brocade:  it's all here!

But neon coloured tulle?
Shocking pink lace?

You can buy it here if you fall into the right demographic!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

FO: Stripes Alive socks

Another pair of self-striping socks!

There were for my October "Sock Knitters Anonymous" challenge.  I am so pleased to have regained my sock-knitting momentum!

They took less than one ball of On Linie Supersocke 100 "Paradise Color".  The leftovers will go towards another few squares of my sock yarn blanket. (Hmmm... who remembers that particular UFO?!)

I really enjoyed knitting these.  The pattern was easily memorised and I love that the stripes came out so evenly.  I did my best to start the second sock at the same part of the stripe sequence as the first, and they are almost identical - woo hoo!

They have a "short row garter stitch heel" and it is my new Best Friend.  Look at how the pink stripes converge  in that perfect triangle!  Fab!
I will definitely use this pattern again. 

As there is still a week of October to go, I started another sock project to see me through until the next SKA Challenge (November).

I am making the Cambium Socks from the Sock Report.

These are not going quite so well.  There are twisted stitches on every second row, and I have to concentrate to avoid pulling the yarn too tight, making it impossible to perform the twist.  I will be glad to reach the heel so I can have a little rest!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Gifting Countdown Begins!

Next week, it is the London half-term holiday and The Girl will be coming North for a few days.  Yay!

But this means the Countdown has begun.  October half-term marks the tipping point for me - after this, it is "almost Christmas" - eek!

I have been squirrelling away a few handknits over the year, with gifting in mind.  But not many.  And although I don't have many people to shop for, I like to put some thought into it and make things rather than hitting the high street.

So what will I make?

Socks.  Obviously.  Most of these are done : )
Gloves / Mitts?  I have the patterns and materials for three pairs, all from an early edition of Knit Now.  I'm quite excited about these!

Licorice Gloves by Sam Parfitt
Hats?  I think everyone who needed one got one last year.

But how about sewing some pretty undies?  There's Zoe's vest pattern and today I spotted the Rosy Ladyshorts (free) pattern over at Cloth Habit.  That could make a lovely set for gifting!

Or an apron?  Lots of great inspiration to be found in Karen's Apronalong!
Lola apron from Sew Liberated
And I never did get round to using my Japanese Herb Embroidery book. How about making a covered notebook, with scraps of leftover tweed and some sprigs of embroidery?

"Herb Embroidery on Linen Volume 1"
This could be fun!

But I might have to squeeze out a couple of long-sleeved tops for myself in the middle of all that selfless giftiness!

I would like to reproduce (OK, copy!) this super-drapey knit top. 

I love the long narrow sleeves, square body wth longer back, scoopy neck with contrast trim and ooh ooh ooh gotta love those pockets!

If you want to buy one like it, it is the Drafting Top from a US-based independent designer called Itterations Workwear.  She has some gorgeous things!

And one last idea:  although I probably wouldn't gift the mis-shapen batch of vegan scones I made yesterday, how about some home-baking?

Those scones?  Absolutely mind-blowingly delicious!  My version strayed a little from the recipe as I had no wholewheat flour or rice syrup or flax seeds, but spelt flour and maple syrup did the job beautifully (no flax substitute used - who needs the little blighters stuck between their teeth?!)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fully Finished Tweed Kelly Skirt

 It was too dark to get proper pictures last night.
The colours were too blue.
I was verging on frumpy with that polo neck jumper and cardi ensemble.
And my lining was hanging down!
So I tried again this morning in sunlight.
 Here is the back view.  There is pleated lining fabric underneath, but it doesn't look too bulky - phew!

And here is the arty shot!

Skirt:  Kelly pattern by Megan Nielsen
Scarf:  Orla Kiely for Uniqlo
Cardigan:  Maison Scotch
Brass Camera necklace:  Came with the cardigan.
Long-sleeved t:  Great Plains last year
Boots:  Joan and David, bought as vintage 12 or so years ago.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

FO: Side-Buttoned Checked Wool Kelly Skirt


Arlington skirt from Wrap London
I saw the Arlington skirt in the latest Wrap London catalogue and decided that I needed to copy it, but in wool rather than the original cotton/linen mix, which is of little use to me in chilly NE Scotland.  It looked like a simple matter to shift the fastening of a Kelly skirt slightly to one side, so that the buttons fell inside one of the fat front pleats like the Arlington.  Oh, and I would line it too, obviously - no problem!

It was all going swimmingly for ages.  I  cut the fronts asymmetrically, as planned.  I stitched the pockets and the side seams.  I pinned the pleats.  I worked out how to create a buttoned-fly front and sewed the buttonholes.  I even edged the inside flap with linen bias tape - gorgeous!
And then I tried to line it.
I realised that the way I had lined my dark denim Kelly was not going to work for this side-saddle version.  And, actually, I am beginning to think the dark denim Kelly lining is causing the skirt to bunch together at the front when I sit down.
So I though I would "just" make a copy of the main skirt out of a strip of lining fabric and sew the two together within the waistband sandwich.
There was way too much bulk.  When I formed the pleats out of lining fabric and laid them on top of the main skirt, there were far too many layers of folded fabric, particularly over the pockets. 
So... I tried to move the lining pleats outwards to rest either side of the main skirt pleats.  I even sewed them in place.  Luckily, I tried the skirt on at this point, and realised that I had given the tweed pleats the equivalent of a bouffant back-comb, and they were sitting proud of my abdomen in a way which suggested I was expecting a multiple birth at any moment.  NOT a good look at my age!  And this was the point at which I may have thrown a tantrum...
Bias-trimmed side-front button-fly facing and pleats at back of skirt lining
I am sorry to say that, despite having taken immense care with every detail up to this point, I picked up my scissors and sliced a huge wedge out of the centre front lining, cutting a good 8 inches out of the top edge, tapering to nothing at thigh level.  And I seamed it on the outside, finishing the raw edges with a zig zag.  Seriously ugly zombie stitching!
And then I looked at what I had done and I was sorry.  Oh, so sorry!  How long would it have taken to flip the lining over and seamed it on the underside?  Not very.  Oh, Roo!
So I put my sewing away for the day, before I did something even worse.

So here we are, a week later, with a skirt.

It is pretty good copy of the Arlington, in climate-appropriate fabric - hoorah!

But I see that pesky lining is out to get me, and is hanging down at the side.

Sigh.  I'll fix it tomorrow.  Honest!

Pattern:  Kelly Skirt by Megan Nielsen, size XS, altered to fasten below one of the pleats.
Fabric:  1 metre of soft wool tweed from Huddersfield Fabrics on ebay, £17.95 "buy it now".  1 metre of lining from the stash, probably bought in Mandors, Edinburgh.
Buttons:  Vintage, grey lucite from Granny's button box.
Other:  I ran a line of cream cotton lace along the tweed hem on the inside, just because :)
And I used one of my "Persuasion" labels bought from Scrapiana on Etsy:  "I am half agony half hope", which pretty much sums up the progress of this project!

I got there!
I am really pleased that I managed to fathom out how to copy the side-button-fly construction.
The skirt looks very like its inspiration and is comfortable and warm.
It's just not very exciting.
And I don't have (m)any tops to wear it with.  The black polo neck jumper always gets dragged out on these occasions!  At the time of writing, every long-sleeved top I own is hanging on the washing line and only one of them looks like it might work with this skirt.  What was I thinking?!
Maybe its time I made some neutral-but-interesting long-sleeved tops to snazz it up a bit  ; )

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sewing, knitting, but no sign of a good title

I can't think of a witty title, so this is what you're getting.

After pulling myself together with the Caravan Curtain top (thanks to Jane for that midget gem of wit!), I set to work on my side-fastening Kelly skirt in wool tweed.

It was looking fabulous until I tried it on.

I looked as if I was ready to give birth to triplet baby mammoths.
No of course there are no pictures!  What kind of a fool do you think I am?!

WARNING:  If you want to line your Kelly skirt, do so with care, and try it on before you commit yourself.  I was so near the finish line when I discovered the awful truth that I am afraid I threw a wobbly and sliced into my lining with the scissors in a fit of:   "I'll fix you good and proper!  Take that!"... Uh huh. Good decision, Roo?

Edited to add:  I sound like a psychopath!  It was more along the lines of "Hmmm... this hasn't worked.  What would happen if I reduced the bulk at the front... oh damn I've already sewn the lining in place, what shall I do?  I know - I will cut a wedge shape out of it and see it that helps..."  Is that better?  Please come back!  I've put the scissors away now!

So this week I will be repairing the damage to the lining, sewing on the buttons, and hemming the lovely thing.  Because, actually, it is going to be a really lovely skirt, which is why I was so frustrated to look and feel so huge in it.  But I admit the scissor-attack was inexcusable.

Oh - and that settles it - I will NOT be making a Kelly skirt out of chunky cord!  All those buttonholes?  All those layers of lumpy fabric at the waist?  NO.  My mustard fabric will be diverted to making another Ginger skirt, or possibly some winter shorts. 

In knitting news, I have finished the first sock of my October Sock Knitters Anonymous pair.  It is the Stripes Alive Pattern and it is the business. Look at that heel! : )

Finally, if you are looking for some lovely hand-knitted-looking woollies, you need to check out Seasalt.
If they weren't so darned expensive I would be snapping up these three garments immediately.  Pure lambswool!
Their ethics look quite strong too...

£89 - just like the Aidez pattern without all that knitting!

£85 - OK it's "just" a simple aran cardi

£99 - oh come on, I would never have the patience to knit this!
Gorgeous, aren't they?
It's just as well I don't buy clothes.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

FO: The Caravan Curtain Renfrew

This is the project that kept me sane this week!

It is our old friend the Renfrew top by Sewaholic, this time made up in a printed cotton jersey which comes perilously close to looking like a curtain from a caravan in the 1970's.

Somewhere on this blog there is a photo of me in 1981 sitting in front of this very curtain...

Pattern:  Renfrew by Sewaholic, View A in size 2, with slightly shortened sleeves
Fabric:  One yard of cotton jersey from Girl Charlee for $5.95 plus shipping (well worth it for 3 yards - this is the last piece from my order)
Collar:  Cream lace with a heavy soft cotton feel - a present from the lovely Scruffy Badger.  Thank you again Winnie! :)
The jersey wasn't nearly as stretchy as the fabric I used for my previous two Renfrew tops.
I was worried it wasn't going to fit, and it does look rather snug across the upper chest in these pictures, but it is still wearable.
Attaching the collar was slightly stressful - I used the vari-overlock stitch on my Bernina and it wasn't moving smoothly through the machine, but kept bunching up.  I should have increased the stitch length but I battled on, with the result that it is slightly higher on one side than the other.  But who is going to notice that?!

I fully expected this to be a disaster.  The print scared me, the lace fought me, and I was using the process as therapy through an emotional week of battered self-esteem.
But I love it!
It is crazy in a good way.
It looks great with my dark denim Kelly skirt (as most things do!) and I have some orange tights (not quite visible in this picture) that tie the whole outfit together.
I have another long-sleeved top to wear!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Zero Degrees and Counting

I had to scrape the ice from my car windscreen yesterday morning and again today.

I unwrapped my Cousette Market fabrics last night, thinking I might make an Airelle blouse. But the bone-chilling reality of zero degrees would require too many warm layers worn under and over the delicate silk / cotton voile, detracting from its delicate and flimsy loveliness.  Save it for warmer days, Roo!
So now what?
My indecision is not down to lack of fabric.
I have the materials "in stock" to make:
  • A mustard cord Kelly skirt
  • A tangerine flippy skirt
  • An orange floral patterned Renfrew 
  • A whole load of other stuff that will look great in summer
But you sewists know how it is: I have it in my head that what I really need is a collection of winter-warmer tops, and I have no suitable fabric in the stash.  So I spend hours scouring the interwebs for the elusive perfect wool jersey, then deem it too expensive, shut down my laptop and go to bed, with nothing bought and nothing sewn.  Hopeless.

And as if I didn't have enough distractions already, I fell for a skirt in the latest Wrap London catalogue which I "need" to copy.  The cotton / linen original isn't warm enough for my needs, but I found some similar checked wool which would be just the ticket.  It's rather like a Kelly, but has a wrapped front, bringing the buttons slightly to the side, avoiding central tummy-gape-syndrome.

Hope you like the enormous photo!  It is the Arlington Skirt if you want to have a proper look!
Why do companies make it impossible to blog about their clothes by having postage-stamp sized photos?

I found this pure wool on ebay for £17.95 a metre... and I only need 1 metre.  Much more affordable than £79 for the Arlington!  And as long as I keep it above the knee, I won't end up in Frumpsville.

So that will be in the post to me shortly, I hope.

Meantime... despite getting home at 6.30pm instead of 5.45 due to ridiculous traffic jams, tonight I cut out the orange floral jersey for another Renfrew.  With any luck, I will get it sewn before the weekend.  Momentum is restored! :)

Saturday, October 06, 2012

FO: The Puritanical Pattern Pyramid Dress

Pattern:  Bestway C454 from the Pattern Pyramid
Fabric:  1 metre navy / white pinstripe wool and 1 metre grey / lilac striped tropical wool, both from British Fabrics on Ebay as part of a pack of remnants, approx £6 total price.  Small piece of white cotton with pre- embroidered "pleats". Favourite Fabrics at Ebay £4.99 / metre.

Process:  Somewhat troubled.  First of all the moths ate my chosen pinstriped suiting, so I substituted two similar fabrics, using the heavier and darker metre for the skirt, and the lighter metre for the bodice.
The front insert piece was missing, so I drafted my own.  I decided to cut it as a simple curve and edge with white bias binding.
You can't really see in this photo, but the bodice is V-shaped at the front waist, and the skirt is bias cut, sweeping out from the point of the V.
I intended to add black buttons to the "shirt front"... but I don't think I will bother.

It fits.
FL says I look "lovely" in it.
But I can't get The Crucible out of my head:

ABIGAIL:  I saw Sarah Good with the Devil!  I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil!  I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!

And I really don't think this is the sort of image I want to project at my interview on Monday.

P.S.  Blogger says I have used up my photo allowance.  I don't believe them, but they won't let me post any more pictures at the moment.  I am off to explore my options...

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Working on: My Pattern Pyramid Dress

It is Thursday already!  If I am going to wear my Pattern Pyramid Dress on Monday, I had better pull my finger out and get stitching!
To remind you, I chose the vintage 1940's pattern Bestway  C454.
It has been a bit of an adventure so far.  The first fabric I pulled out of the stash turned out to have been shot to pieces by ravenous  moths.  So now I am making it out of two different lightweight wool suiting fabrics.
I am using a charcoal grey / lilac stripe for the bodice and sleeves, and a much darker blue / grey pinstripe for the skirt.  I think the combination works but I won't be sure until I get the sleeves in.
When I went to cut it out, I discovered that the front "vest" insert pattern piece was missing, so I had to draft it myself.
As you can see, I took the vintage high neck styling a little too far!
Breathing is optional.
Swallowing is impossible.
I am going to have to reshape the neck curve.
It is supposed to have a frilled collar, but I am afraid it might be too prissy-looking.  I want a smart dress, but I don't want to appear severe and headmistress-y.

I quite like how it looks with a little wing collar.

What do you think?
I could either:
  • scoop the curve a little lower and have a simple round neck and buttons
  • bind the top edge with bias tape and call it a collar, or
  • stick to the original design, cut it slightly lower and add a neck frill
There's nothing like a deadline to make me focus!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


 Just yesterday, this field was over-the-knee-deep with barley.
 I came home from work to find... stubble!
And giant tracks.
 And an ominous rumble from the East.
 Not the Great Big Enormous Green Combine Harvester of my dreams, but the Really Quite Big Red Combine Harvester.
This one is like a super-sized lawn-mower:  it simply cuts the stalks and separates the grain into a storage tank, discarding the straw in its wake.
No bales. 
What a pity!
I was hoping for bales!
 Here are the gamekeeper, the landowner, and the farmer :)
And it was all over before sunset.