Friday, May 31, 2013

Me Made May: Final Days and Analysis

So here we are already:  the end of May.
What did I wear in the final few days?  Off we go:

 27 May 2013
South Riding 1940's pattern blouse, Betsey Johnson 1970's pattern trousers and (not me-made) Llynfi cardigan

This blouse is special. I took so much care over its making, and the details of the finish that I appreciate it every time I go to put it on. My new cardigan is perfect with it. It is quiet and unassuming.

28 May 2013
 Vicar’s Wife blouse, navy Eva Dress trousers, Audrey in Unst cardigan

This is “old-style Roo”. In previous me-made challenges I have mumbled on about my aspirations towards a vintage look and this outfit pretty much summarises what I was aiming for then. But I have moved on. I like this look, but it feels a bit costume-y. Nowadays, I much prefer the look of this blouse with my mustard Chardon or my dark denim Kelly.

29 May 2013
Red Renfrew, jersey print Kelly skirt, black cotton Japanese pattern jacket, black ankle boots.

This is my only repeat outfit in the whole month and it had improved a lot the second time around.  In the previous iteration (8 May),  I wore flat pumps and a grey shawl and it lacked a vital spark of energy.

30 May 2013
There is no picture. FL and I attended his brother’s funeral.
I wore my rockabilly rose skirt with purple Renfrew, a black Brora sweater which FL gifted me about three birthdays ago, and my silver locket.

31 May 2013
I celebrated the end of MMM in full glowing colour! Violet lace print Renfrew, dark denim Kelly skirt, lime green vintage cardigan, navy ankle boots, with RTW shocking pink coat just in case the weather turned. It did.  (20 C at 8am.... 10C at noon.)
So... what have I learned from Me Made May?
An astonishing amount!

1- See Yourself as Others See You
Taking a photograph every day allowed me to “see” what I wear a lot better than just looking in the mirror.  It led me to rethink my Happiness Rating on several occasions.

The new layout of Flickr sets out the whole month in one screen and about halfway through May I suddenly recognised what others have been telling me: I really love playing with colour!  Some days, I had to consciously tone myself down. Sobriety has its place. But I realised that wearing strong colours makes me look more confident… which leads to me feeling more confident.

2 - Flat-Foot Floogie
My other discovery this month was that comfortable but stylish footwear has become critical to my state of mind and the Happiness Rating of any given outfit.
My two worst days (8th and 9th of May) involved a pair of dead flat Kickers pumps. I felt like a middle-aged frump as I flip-flopped my way through the day. Repeating one of those outfits later in the month with different footwear made all the difference.
By far my happiest days included my navy suede ankle boots from White Stuff. They are incredibly comfortable, and yet kinda funky. I am on the lookout for more of the same. I am giving the pumps to a charity shop.

The Stats
In the breakdown of “what I wore”:

While I wore a Renfrew top or similar RTW tee on 18 days out of 31, I recognised the feeling of wearing something “special” when I wore my 1940’s pattern blouses or Senchas.
I wore a Kelly skirt on 8 days (the dark denim version on 4 of those days), a Chardon on 3, a Ginger on 3… and the Rockabilly Rose on another 3 “must try to look normal” days.
I rarely wore trousers to work and rarely wore skirts or dresses at home… but I really enjoyed it when I shook things up a bit and spent a Saturday in my purple Darling Ranges dress and Eco Sneaks (shoes).

In the end, I think the best thing about Me Made May has been that element of mixing things up.
Trying out new combinations.
Surprising myself!
It is just too easy to reach for the same few items on rotation, but I have proved to myself that I have enough happy me-mades to ring the changes almost every day for a month.
I need to keep it up, to stay out of that rut.  It has been a lot of fun... and fun is something I need in my life.  I bet you do too!  Yes?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Llynfi Cardigan

You could be forgiven for thinking this cardigan was something I knitted myself.
It is made of wonderful sheepy organic shetland wool.
The mustard edging was hand-dyed using coreopsis ( a plant like a chrysanthemum).
The buttons are fairly-traded from a cooperative in Nepal.
 But in fact, it was made for me by Sue of Llynfi Textiles in Wales.
I know this, because she sent me hand-written note in my parcel, explaining that it had taken her a little longer than planned because she had fallen out with her knitting machine :D
That is the sort of back-story you just don't get with "fast fashion"!

The pocket linings are knitted out of a darker shade of wool, just as it came off the sheep.
See the hand-stitching to secure the top corners on the inside?
The finishing is precise and sturdy.
I am confident that this garment will stand the test of time, as long as I look after it.  Sue sent me instructions on exactly how to do that.  She even included a natural moth-repellant sachet, and sent it in a zip-loc bag inside the eco postage packet.
Am I happy with it?
Oh yes!
It cost a lot of money.  But if it is the only ready-made garment I buy this year...?
I have bought myself more than a cardigan.  I have bought peace-of-mind and you can't put a price on that.

P.S. In case anyone is wondering, no, I was not sponsored to write such a glowing review.  These thoughts are my own.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

MMM days... where are we now? 18 to 26?

 May 25 2013
Ha!  Only one me-made garment on display and I look like I am expecting triplets - fab!
This is the Summer Concert Tee worn with an ethically-challenged black jersey tube skirt bought online for a reduced price.  The company which made it does charitable works in Africa, but I don't know what they do there because I don't read Danish.  So I am just going to confess to price-influenced failure in my ethical stance and leave it at that.  It serves me right that the overall effect is "maternity wear".  I was comfortable.  Next time I wear this t shirt I will stick to jeans.  Though obviously I need to wear the skirt as often as possible to atone for my sins.  It looks fab with my Drafting Tops :)
Happiness?  Outweighed by guilt.

 May 24 2013
Me-made:  Betty Jean McNeil cardigan, Ginger skirt in teal wool, dotty Renfrew (not seen) and Simple Yet Effective shawl.
Happiness?  This is one of those outfits that I wear too often.  It is safe and dependable but lacks sparkle in my eyes.

 May 23 2013
Bounce, bounce, bounce - new cardigan alert!!!  (The other bouncing was the hailstones outside.  Yes, really!)
No, I didn't make the cardigan myself but it was handmade for me by Sue of Llynfi and I will be blogging about it soon.
Me-made:  side-buttoned Kelly skirt, sparrow print Renfrew
Happiness?  See "bounce, bounce bounce" above :D
Subdued colours influenced by the weather, I suspect.

 May 22 2013
Me-made:  dark denim Kelly skirt, Liberty tana lawn Sencha blouse, Audrey in Unst cardigan and Shetland Lace Triangle shawl.
The first time I have teamed a Sencha with a Kelly:  it works!
Ooh yeah, pretty high!  The ladylike Liberty print makes the denim look almost smart, so I feel quite subversive in this outfit (heh heh heh!)

May 21 2013
Me-made:  Mushroom-print Ginger skirt, organic cotton Renfrew top, and Aestlight shawl.
Happiness?  Lime and violet.  Need I say more?  My favourite colours together at the same time - yay!

May 20 2013
Me-made:  Mustard Jupe Chardon, my other Sencha blouse (dark green tana lawn), Audrey in Unst cardigan.
Happiness?  I think I took the matchy-matchy a step or two too far with the tights and the shawl (knitted by Christine).  But the golden birdcage necklace really works with this skirt.  So, yeah, I was pretty pleased with myself in this get-up, and it definitely brought some sunshine to the office!

Missing days?  18, 19 and 26 were all weekend-at-home days, so there were hand-knitted socks and home-made knickers, but that's as exciting as it got.  Shovelling dead leaves, watering the lavender and cleaning out my yarn stash are not the most fashion-forward events in anyone's life!

One more week to go.  It's been interesting to compare my photos with previous me-made challenge months.  I am gathering my thoughts on that topic.  But right now I have a sock to knit because it is almost June, the month of birthdays, and I am not ready for any of them - aaargh!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

FO: Windswept Betsey Johnson Wrap Skirt

Heath - cliff, it's me, your Ka-theeee!

Because I have a blog, I can tell you that this project was conceived on 23 May 2011... so it's taken me two years to make this skirt.  How did that happen?  I was besotted the moment I saw it, and then I lost my nerve.

Pattern:  Butterick 4089 from 1970-something, Betsey Johnson for Alley Cat, in size 25 waist
Fabric:  2 metres of herringbone-weave blue linen from Croft Mill, price forgotten but around £15 total?
Other:  30cm of red bandana-print bias binding, halved along the centre line, to face the pocket edges, red topstitching thread, mediumweight woven interfacing for the front waistband.

I had to piece together the waistband / ties to fit them into the available yardage, so lined up the joins at the side seams.  Otherwise, I did what I was told.
I have to commend the design of this pattern.  Everything fitted together beautifully, with especially clear instructions for fitting the waistband, which I had expected to be a bit tricky... but wasn't.
The only thing I would do differently next time would be to bind the edges of the pockets on the inside, as there are some raw edges under there.  But that's just perfectionism.
I had planned to bind the hem, but in the end I stuck to the instructions and turned it under twice, adding topstitching.  Lots of thread was used in the making of this skirt! 

When I first tried it on, I was a bit disappointed.  The linen has a tendency to stretch out across the bias and is probably a bit too thin for a skirt.  It creases and ripples like crazy, and sculpts itself to the body, which is fine if you are standing up, but try sitting down and you will carry your bum-print around with you for the rest of the day!
However, when I went out in the wind to take these pictures, I found myself enjoying the swish and the swirl of it.  It is rather wild and untamed when it gets out in the weather.  Romantic?
And I am surprised and pleased to report zero knicker-flashing - woo hoo!  I was so worried that this would be a major issue with a wrap-back skirt.  And goodness knows it was tested!

In a different fabric, this skirt has the potential to swoop gracefully.  I am seriously tempted to revisit the pattern one day.  A maxi version?  Ooh!
I like the style.  It has swagger and drape and those huge pockets are so practical and welcoming.
But it is definitely a farm skirt.
An egg-collecting, wildflower-picking dog-walking skirt.
A here-comes-FL-over-the-brow-of-the-hill-skirt.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Rumpus of Yarn Ponies

On Friday, I had an hour in Edinburgh between the end of my work meeting and the train back home, so I did the only sensible thing and aimed for the nearest yarn shop :)
This was my first visit to Kathy's Knits in Broughton Street.  I had read a friendly review of the shop on Jean Miles' blog and the promise of local and UK-sourced woolly goodness was too enticing to miss.
I was not disappointed.
I was the only customer, so I had the undivided attention of Kathy herself.
I went there in the hope that she might stock Yarn Pony.  I had bought a single skein of sock wool at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, overwhelmed at the time by the choices and possibilities.  Ever since, I have yearned for a cardigan's-worth of Mica's yarn.  I had been hoping she might open an online shop, but it hasn't happened yet.  Soon?
So when I spotted three cubby-holes of the mystical unicorn-like wool in Kathy's shop, the outcome was inevitable.
I spent a long time weighing up my choices.  There was not enough of any one colour to make a cardigan, but I was determined not to fall victim to my down-sizing tendencies, which would have sent me home with a lonely single skein to make a shawl or a pair of socks instead.  This is the year of making things "for keeps", so a cardigan's-worth of Mustang superwash merino it had to be.
Kathy humoured my indecision and helped me try out all the yarns side by side.  For a while, it was going to be a beautiful mottled mossy green with, maybe a deep claret contrast to make up the yardage.  That was a close thing.
But in the end (and don't forget I only had twenty minutes to spend in the shop!) I plumped for seaside stripes:  sea and sand and sky.  1200 metres of hand-dyed beauty.  Summer holiday knitting if ever I saw it!

I have not yet chosen a pattern.  But it might be an adapted Vitamin D, or something more fitted by Ann Weaver?  We'll see.  For the time being, it is stored out of reach of moths (I hope) while I finish FL's birthday socks.

I also popped a shawl pattern into my bag:  Firiel by Lucy Hague.  There was a sample in the shop (using Yarn Pony, of course!) and I was smitten.  It is worked sideways, so you can weigh your yarn, knit to the midpoint with half the skein, and then use up the remaining half on the second half of the shawl, with no wastage or fear of running out.  Clever!
Picture copyright:  Lucy Hague
The photos on the pattern page are lovely but don't do it justice - it looks even more striking in real life:  a solid garter stitch centre with graphic lace stripes in a jagged-edged frame.  It's one of those strong and simple shawls which could work equally well as a man's accessory. 
I plan to try it out with some of the Crown Mountain Farms Sock Hop from my stash - maybe the denim blue colourway?  Mmmm!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

FO: La Jupe Chardon Pasteque

Quelle surprise!  It's another Chardon skirt from the Deer & Doe pattern, this time in watermelon-pink linen.

This fabric has been in my stash since 2004, when I bought it to make a dress for my little girl.  Ha!  Listen to me, all you young mums out there: THEY GROW UP!  I have thought about using this fabric every summer.  Last year it almost became a pair of swishy pleated shorts, but luckily I revised my plans.  I think I will get a lot more wear out of a skirt than shorts.

Pattern:  Deer & Doe Jupe Chardon, size 38
Fabric:  Heavy watermelon linen bought from Little Shop of Treasures at ebay in 2004, about £12?
Other:  Michael Miller Peace symbol bias binding from Frumble Fabrics, about £3.50.  Another metre of plain white binding for the centre back seam, about 40p from stash.  Zip and thread bought locally for far too much, but I needed it, so there you go, c'est la vie, shrugs.  Oh - and a "I am half agony half hope" label, naturellement!

I started making this skirt last Sunday and have been dipping in and out of it across the week.  This was supposed to make me feel like I was making progress, but actually made me feel like I had been sewing it forever!
I took care not to rush this project, and added binding to the centre back seam, to prevent fraying around the zip.  I tried to do a lapped zip from memory, but it's not perfect.  Maybe I need to research  different zip sewing methods as I seem to have lost my touch.  Once again I am grateful to the bow-tie for covering my dodgy zip-sewing!
I used the fancy Michael Miller binding at its full width on the hem, and half-width to bind the lower edge of the waist facing.

Stash-busting of the very best kind!
It feels really good to put this fabric to good use, after lurking in my stash suitcase for so many years.
Yes, it is a strong colour, but I am coming to realise that my happiest me-mades are the confident ones.
I love the swishiness of the Chardon skirt, and though the back bow is dangerously girly, it pleases me.
And best of all, I finally have a bottom half that goes well with my Raindrops on Roses top - yippee!

Friday, May 17, 2013

MMM Days 11 to 17 (Bored Yet?)

So here we are right in the middle of Me Made May.... are you bored yet?

11 May 2013 - nothing much to report.  I found myself dressed in old non-me-mades because it was Saturday and I was sewing at home.  But I am pleased to tell you that my jeans, t-shirt and shirt were all organic cotton, from Howies and Seasalt.

12 May 2013
 Happiness rating:   Very High
 Lisette Portfolio dress, oh how I love you and your pockets!  And by a stroke of serendipity the Artio shawlette picks up the lemon/lime flower in the print rather well.  To pin it in place, I dug out a handmade (not by me) brooch made from a shard of pottery found on a Scottish island beach :D

I wore this to the garden centre where I spent too much money on replenishing the herb garden (mostly lavender).  We now have a hard-digging "rough" gardener.  I wait for him to go home and then sneak out and plant things in the weeded areas.  Sadly,I have caught him trying to bury weeds instead of removing them, so FL got the job of having a man-to-man "quality control" talk with him, which turned into a practical demonstration of "how to dig".  I won't tell you how long it took FL to recover his breath.  Sigh.

13 May 2013
Happiness rating:    Increasingly happy as the day wore on (without creases!)

It's about time I wore my Chardon skirt!  I had to get up early to iron my South Riding blouse, but I think it was worth it.  I felt a bit like a 1940's pre-teen party-goer in this outfit.  Anne from the Famous Five?  (I always wanted to be George.) Someone in the Flickr group said it reminded her of Snow White - LOL.  Certainly the right era!  So I threw my cowboy boots on to toughen things up a bit.  Good news to report - this linen hardly creases at all - wowee!

Cardigan:  Betty Jean McNeil

14 May 2013
Happiness rating:  Bonus points for amusing others.

I have never worn this skirt before.  It is so RED and didn't seem to work with any of my tops.  But I had never tried it with my new violet and black Renfrew - success!  With toning tights, it is less glaringly bright (humour me) and I enjoy the shape.
Suspender straps take a lot of getting used to.  This is them crossed at the back, which hoists the hem upwards by a good inch if not two.  When I sit down... yeah.  Even higher.  But uncrossed they threaten to slip off the shoulder.  At this height, the waist is up on my rib cage which makes me look taller and slimmer, which is an illusion I rather like to cultivate ; )
However, this was not the ideal outfit for climbing on a chair to open the window in the hospital waiting room.  The NHS should employ me as a clown to entertain the aged and infirm:  if I'm not knitting a sock I'm performing aerial acrobatics in a short red skirt - woo hoo!

15 May 2013

Happiness Rating:  Medium to High

So it's cold again.  But I found my caravan curtain-print Renfrew - yay!  It was folded up neatly in the stash suitcase. (Why?) I am so glad it wasn't sent to landfill in a pile of threadbare towels!  Mad tights are becoming a theme this Me Made May.

 Cardigan:  Audrey in Unst

16 May 2013... and 17 May 2013 (spot the difference?)
 Happiness rating:  Higher on Friday than Thursday

Who remembers this skirt then? It's my 1950's pattern Rockabilly Rose. It is very comfortable, crease-resistant and a "safe" colour for polite days at work, but because it is about 3 inches too big, it sits on my hip instead of my waist and is far too long.  If I hoist it up (first picture), you can see how it could look if I wasn't too lazy to fix it.  I have never tried wearing it with this cardigan or tops before.  Not bad, if a bit frumpy.

Worn with my Aestlight shawl and lime cashmere vintage cardi (a gift from a friend).

On Friday, I had to get up at 5.30am to travel to Edinburgh for a work meeting.  I needed to be comfortable, smart-casual and "appropriate".  So I revisited Thursday's outfit and exchanged the purple Renfrew for the red one.  Also seen:  farm-children print bag handmade by Cotton and Cloud before she became a famous knitting pattern designer, granny's not-jet beads, and alarmingly pink RTW coat, bought in a sale about 3 years ago (it could be 4) and saved for occasions when I think I need to look like a grown-up.
Because this outfit did what I wanted it to, it scored pretty high, even though this is not my ideal self-image.  Interesting.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Pair of Sole Mates

My knitting has reached an interesting stage where I find myself with two single socks, His and Hers.

First to arrive in the singles club was Ms Chelsea Morning, who has been sitting waiting for her toes to be kitchenered for... um... two weeks?  She has been perched on a high stool sipping cocktails awaiting her sole-mate.  Her real name is Waffle Cream, but she thinks Chelsea sounds more sophisticated. After two weeks at the bar, she's just a tiny bit tipsy

She has all but given up hope of pairing up when suddenly...
 ... who should burst through the door but John Huston, Tarnished Hero, clutching the lonely hearts section of the listings magazine to his throbbing instep.

He has no time for pseudonyms or idle chitchat.
He walks right up to her, beer in hand:  "Hey Girl,"  he breathes in a husky voice,"You look mighty warm-hearted and squeezable.  Would you like to to rub your toes on my rippling twisted stitches?"
 "Oh my!"  gasps Chelsea, swooning into her Butterscotch Milk Punch.
"A Guardian reader!  I bet you're a feminist too!"

"Uh huh," leers John,  "I won't ever expect you to shave your legs or paint your nails!"
"But...will you do your own washing?"  she asks, breathless with anticipation.
"You better believe it, babes!"  he chuckles.
"And darning?"
"I like nothing better!"
"My Hero!"  she squeals, tumbling into his woolly embrace.

 And may they live happily ever after....

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Weekend Makings

This weekend  I curled up with my comfort knitting, and finally finished the first section of my Kex Blanket - hooray!  I got out all my balls of Scottish Aran Tweed to assess the available yardage and determine colours for the next section.  It took a whole evening to pick up the stitches, but now I am making good progress.
I have been itching to sew.  That's been the root of my weekday evening discontent - even though it is still light at 8pm, after doing my dog-duties it just feels too late to drag out the sewing machine and get going on a new project.  Tsk.  Pull yourself together, Roo!

So this weekend I made a start on not one but TWO skirts using fabric from the depths of the stash  - yay!

Unfortunately, it is so long since I planned to sew this Betsey Johnson skirt out of blue herringbone linen, I have long since scavenged the special red bandana print bias binding I bought for this project, (using it for my Tribute to Jane shorts) and have had to pause while I find something similar for the hem facing. 
This is the inside edge of the front pockets.   I need another 3 metres of binding for the hem,  I think red with white polka dots will do nicely!
I am making the blue skirt with red topstitching... in blue with red topstitching.  How original!

I was inspired by another Me-Made-May participant to revive this project.  VeryKerryBerry popped up in the Flickr group wearing a gorgeous linen wrap skirt which she made from a 1970's pattern.  "Ooh!  I could do that!" I thought.  And so I am, sort of - but mine has ties rather than buttons at the waist.  And I suspect that mine will be more of an apron than a skirt, because my linen is a bit too thin for decency.

This month's Country Living magazine has a similar vibe going on.  I might need a headscarf :D

But having run out of binding, I have set this skirt aside for today and made a start on my watermelon linen Chardon.  No pictures of that yet - you'll have to come back another day!