Thursday, April 30, 2015

April in Review

It was only when I came to write this that I realised why I am feeling the way I am - what a crazy month!

Ad Hoc Clue 2- intriguing! ;)

I finished my Ad Hoc Test Knit - are you knitting along?  I have seen some lovely versions over in the Geoknittrix Ravelry group.

And I finished my hotchpotch vanilla socks, to use up the Regia yarn left from my first vanilla socks.
I am currently working on another pair, to use up the Arne and Carlos Yarn, with plain strawberry red cuffs and possibly feet.

I got excited about Barn Raising Squares.

I cast on a 1980's pattern sweater - and finished the back already.

And this week I cast on for the Winter is Coming shawl using deep stash yarn.
The pattern is a winner, because each section is a bite-sized chunk, so I just want to keep knitting.

However, I am less sure about my yarn selection.
It is Fyberspates Echo Sock in Mixed Brights. 100% BFL.
That red looks like... um... gore.  I am not sure I want to look as if I have been stabbed in the back when I wear it!
But I am not stopping now.


I made a pair of culottes and a long sleeved tee - boom!

I am still trying to work out what to wear on my feet with these culottes.  My two tone brogues ought to work but they look a bit too delicate.  My chelsea boot DMs are perfect but what about the bit of leg between the boot and the hem?  Socks?  Tights?  It can't be the plain duck egg blue legs for work...

This week I tried to make some knickers, but it was a disaster.
The sewing machine chewed the fabric and the thread snapped and then the elastic got caught and frayed and.... yeah.
Into the bin.


Where do I start?!

Fabric for a tee shirt... but it might be for The Girl and not me.

Several balls of Regia sock yarn (but I sold some on Ravelry to compensate).

A pair of trainers, because I am going to get fit.

A smartphone so that I could have the Zombies Run app... except I seem to have bought the only phone in the UK that doesn't let me buy that app.  If I lived in the States I could have it.  Go figure.  I will have to find a substitute (for the get-fit game - it is too late for the phone).

...and a white cotton ready-to-wear shirt.
OMG I bought an item of clothing!
It is an allegedly ethical purchase.
ShopEthical gives Monki a score of 53 out of 100.  That might not sound impressive, until you see that eg Ralph Lauren scores 6 out of 100.


I have the audiobook of David Nicholls' Us in the car.
I am not going to get it finished by Saturday when it is due back (someone else has reserved it).
I don't love the narration, and I would have skimmed through some sections if I was reading it myself, but if I saw the book on the library shelf I would probably get it and finish it in an afternoon. It is very British, self-deprecating humour and will make a great film.
If you have ever been married to a biochemist you will roll around the floor laughing.
Just saying.

In actual paper-based reading, I am more than halfway through The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter.
It is a quiet read.
Maybe there is a twist in the tale?


Lots and lots of decluttering!
I stripped out the kitchen cupboards and I tackled my wardrobe (again).
I had a trip to the tip and a trip to the charity shop, and another is planned.
I got the drains cleared - woo hoo!

Myeloma Update

FL's Freelite score continues to hold steady on Pomalidomide.

During April's visit to the hospital, I overheard a man in the waiting room saying that he has had Myeloma for 13 years and he claimed to be Scotland's longest-living survivor of this cancer.  He too is on Pom, but it is not going so well.
I thought about introducing him to FL (who couldn't hear the conversation) but I decided against it. Everyone's experience of this disease is so different.


The longer FL goes on being well, the less likely it is that I will apply for "Voluntary Severance".
I only have until July to apply and it is not certain that I would be successful, as I know I am not on the "dark alley conversations" list.
My employer needs 150 well-paid volunteers to balance the books. Inevitably, it is the lower paid, who can more easily find another job, who are making enquiries.  Just like last time.  Sigh.

Hence my prevarication about making new work clothes - I might not need them!

But look what's on the horizon:  Me Made May!
Me Made May with a much-reduced inventory - eek!

More of that tomorrow....

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Spring Cleaning My Life

Greetings from the snowy 'shire!
Tulips in the snow
I am on holiday from work for a week just because I could... and because I really felt the need. Things are a little crazy at the Fun Palace these days.
I am taking the opportunity to Get Things Done - all those personal and home maintenance chores that a 9 to 5 job doesn't leave space for.
The blizzard approaches
So I have been deep-cleaning kitchen cupboards and drawers, typing up a chapter of FL's book, booking an optician's appointment, taking rubbish to the tip, shopping for a new phone and a printer... so many things from the To Do list!
I even ordered a pair of trainers so that I can do some gentle running round the farm.  I will never be an athlete, but I would really like to be more fit.  Running in wellies is downright dangerous.  So I have bought a pair of shoes which support the ankle on rough ground and have extra grip on mud.

"WTF?  I'm not going for a walk in this!"
And with my new phone, I can finally have the Zombies Run app!  Yeah, I am still a kid despite the grey hair.

There will hopefully be some sewing (new knickers are top of the list!)

And there will definitely be more knitting.  I have been powering ahead with Barn Raising Squares and have 13 completed in total.

Barn Raising Squares in progress
I finished the back of my 1980's jumper.

And I am working on another vanilla sock using leftover Arne and Carlos yarn, with regular strawberry-coloured Regia for cuffs, heels and toes (no pictures yet).

I am itching to cast on a new shawl, as my "holiday project", but I can't decide which stash yarn to use.
I hope I am not still procrastinating when Friday comes around!

Blocking the first 13 Squares - I ran out of pins!
And I have been reading:  The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter. I wish I could get Truly Madly Deeply (the film) out of my head, because it is not like that at all... except in some ways it is.  I like it but I am not crazy about it so far.

Have a good week - enjoy the spring weather!
The view from the kitchen window at 5pm

Sunday, April 19, 2015

FO: Oki Style Solo Top in Jersey

Ah - she's up on her podium, she must be happy!
Hello again!  Another weekend, another sewing project :)
In the midst of my wardrobe re-evaluation, I said farewell to a number of disintegrating t-shirts.
And no, they weren't cheap and nasty poundshop jobs, they were me-made Renfrews.
Just because I sewed them doesn't mean they were guaranteed to last forever.
I was particularly grumpy about the organic cotton Renfrew that had shrank and faded... but I suppose it was two years old, so maybe that is the life of a t-shirt.  Sigh.
Moving on...

This is the Oki-Style Solo Top, with added Renfrew sleeves... extra long sleeves, because I like to wear them scrunched up at the wrist.
I also added a stepped hem for extra edge :)
The pattern is intended for woven fabric, so I didn't add seam allowances, except at the centre front.
I figured this would allow the stretchy fabric to do its thing.
And it did.

I am slightly besotted with the back-neck V.
Ah, who remembers the 1980's and those lovely inside-out, back-to-front sweatshirts?
This definitely has that drama student vibe.
But you won't catch me with a leotard underneath this time around!

I left the edges to roll, rather than trying to hem the jersey or face that v-neck.
It was the facing that messed up my unwearable muslin of this design.
I stitched the whole thing on my Bernina 1008, using the "vari-overlock" stitch.  I used the same stitch to finish the hems and neck edge.
I see I have a pointy bit at the centre front hem.  An unexpected element that I rather like!

This pattern's USP is the unusual inside-out dart feature.  These add shaping but possibly draw more attention to one's boobage than I would like.

Pattern:  Oki-Style Solo Top in size small, with added sleeves from the Renfrew (with the shoulder caps removed).
Fabric:  1.3 metres of Robert Kaufman Laguna jersey, from The Eternal Maker (link to a lighter colour of the same fabric)
Other:  Just thread.  Lots of thread!

Pretty damned fine, though I say so myself!
It turned out exactly as I had hoped.
The neckline is flattering.
The hi-lo stepped hem is long enough to tuck into my jeans, but looks good worn loose.
I can pull the sleeves down over my fingers on a chilly day, or scrooch them up to my elbows if I get hot.
It is kinda cool and hip, without being too obvious.

An added bonus is that it looks great with my test-knit of the Ad Hoc Mystery Shawl by Josh Ryks.
The first clue has just been released - so this is all I can show you!
You want to knit it now, don't you?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Charity Shop Test

Yesterday I found myself in a state of dis-dress at work.
My outfit had seemed so great at 7 am:  new culottes, favourite Portfolio seersucker top, black cardigan, fun beads in colours to match the top = lovely!
Favourite top and beads
But I totally misjudged my footwear.  I had on my black Camper ankle boots and a pair of crazy over-the-knee argyle socks in black, red and green.
By lunchtime my feet were steaming, and because I had taken off the cardigan I was this awful mess of winter bottom and summer top.
When I saw myself in the mirror in the Ladies' I was ready to jump in my car and drive home there and then.  Ugh.
It was a stressful day anyway, so this sartorial tragedy was the salty icing on a very bitter cake.
You let me down - I thought you were my friends!
Today I approached my wardrobe with a hatchet in hand.

Take One:
My starting point was to throw everything on the bed, and then iron and hang up only the items I LOVE.
That didn't take long!
I had to walk away and make a cup of coffee to avoid giving up there and then.

Take Two:
I took a second pass to identify the items which I would consider trying on if I saw them in a shop.
Nothing.  Nothing!
Oh no!!!

Take Three:
If this was a charity shop, what would I find attractive enough to pull off the rail for closer examination?

A few items resurfaced - phew!
Several more went straight into a bin bag.
By the end of two hours, I came to the conclusion that something must have changed.
I must have changed.
Because it is hard to believe that I have been walking around in clothes I would not be seen dead in. But that seems to be the logical conclusion.

The curtain rail is festooned with a row of nervous twitching garments on a suspended sentence.  If they are lucky, I will put them on probation for a couple of weeks:  if I can make them work they can stay.  If not, they are leaving this house never to be seen again.
It is simultaneously exciting and scary.
I seem to be ready to start again, almost from scratch.
Without checking, I know I still have sufficient clothing to get me through a working week.  And I had the sense to buy some plain black bamboo socks this morning, which will avoid a repeat of yesterday's malfunction!
No socks!
I downloaded the Into-Mind e-book "Personal Style and the Perfect Wardrobe".  It is pretty intimidating but incredibly thorough.
There is a worksheet for every possible scenario, to analyse your lifestyle and the roles which your clothes need to perform.
There is none of the usual:  "You need a trench coat, jeans, a white shirt and black loafers", though that sounds pretty appealing right now!
Instead, it is all about understanding what you like and why, identifying gaps in your existing wardrobe and making the right choices... long before you even think about going shopping or sewing up a storm.
Let the sunshine in!
Tomorrow, I plan to sew an everyday staple top.
But right now I need to pick up my knitting and find my zen.
I know it's here somewhere...
Happy Saturday everyone!  I hope the sun is shining where you are.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Knit Goes On

Back again, with lots of knitting to show!
I finished another pair of simple socks, using the remains of my ball of Regia Colorations and some deep-stash Curious Yarns sock wool.  This is the skein that never ends.  It was the background colour for my Mad Budgie Socks, the feet of these - and still there is enough left for a Barn Raising Square.

Speaking of which.. when I completed these socks I needed an instant portable project and grabbed a leftover ball of Countess Ablaze "Nerds Prefer their Rainbows Darker" to make a square.

And when I finished that, I went straight back to the tub of scraps to start another - this time in a self-striping yarn from Online.
At this rate, I might eventually have enough squares to make a sock-yarn blanket!

But my sofa-knitting is something less portable.
I started a recreation of my favourite jumper from the 1980's.
I am using the red Cascade Eco Plus leftover from The Boy's birthday blanket.
I don't know if I have enough red for the whole jumper.  If not, I think it would look cracking with marl grey sleeves.

It is knitting up really quickly.  A week in and I am more than halfway up the back.
I discovered that I could only get an accurate picture of the colour if I set it against the yellow daffodil - and why not!

In stash enhancement news...
There was a spot of emotionally-charged yarn buying this week.  Kemps are selling Regia sock yarn at a bargainous price.

Based on recent experience, I have enough here to knit 7 or 8 pairs of socks!

"But I don't need more yarn!" squealed my Inner Voice.
So I surveyed my Ravelry stash and slid a few items over to my "trade" page.
Result?  I am in profit!
I now have more balls of yarn in my stash than before, but my cash in was greater than my cash out.  And let's face it - workhorse sock yarn is of far more use to me than silk-based laceweight!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

FO: The Culottes of Awesome: McCall's 3657

Hoist the mainsail me hearties!
Alert the Navy - I did some sewing!
I see no ships
 I have come out of my sewing funk with a blast of genuine 1970's Funkadelia!
This pattern has been simmering in the stash for far too long.
I was planning to make full-length trousers.  But when you have legs as wide as these, not even 60 inch fabric allows a pair to be cut side by side.
At rest, you could almost believe this was a smart pleated skirt.
And that is an illusion I hope to cultivate in the workplace!
But the truth becomes apparent when I dance...
There's not much call for dancing In Committee Room 2 ;)

Pattern:  McCall's 3657 from 1973 in size 26 1/2 waist, 36 hip - perfect!  Why can't more patterns be the right size without any effort from me?
I made View A, shortened to the point at which you can "lengthen or shorten here".

Fabric: 2 metres of a herringbone weave cotton from Croft Mill at least 2 years ago.  It could be longer.  It would have taken 2.3 metres of this width of fabric to make them full length, or a whopping 3.8 metres of 90 cm wide material - wowzer!  That's over 4 yards folks!

Other:  A 9 inch invisible zip (in the side seam) and grosgrain ribbon to face the waist.  Thread.  I also used satin bias binding for the hems as this fabric frays quite easily and I really want these to last forever!


Am I allowed to gush?!
I absolutely love them :)
I have not had any work-appropriate trousers since my Eva dress 1940's wide-legged ones disintegrated and my Betsey Johnson-pattern ones faded beyond acceptability.
Cropped trousers have been in my peripheral vision since probably October, when I first saw them appearing in the Sunday supplements.  And of course now the 1970's are everywhere.
These are the real thing!
And they fit me perfectly without any fiddling around.  I will definitely try a narrower pair from the same pattern, full length next time.
I haven't written about the sewing process because it was absolutely straightforward and easy - boom!
The ribbon-faced waistband is so simple and neat, I don't know why it isn't used  more often.
I reckon I'm back in the sewing groove!
Woo hoo!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Because Clothes

I must have struck a chord when I blogged about Women in Clothes :)
It brought a spark of life to this quiet little corner of the internet - thank you to all of you who commented or linked to the post.

My uniform:  Howies shirt and me-made Peggy skirt
Maybe it was that, or the sunshine, or the daffodils, or the farmer cultivating the fields outside the kitchen window... but it feels like Spring time all of a sudden.
I hauled all my summery clothes out of the storage drawer and gave them a shake.
I was pleased to see some old friends, but recognised others as candidates for compulsory redundancy.
It is really hard to throw away me-mades which I have loved and worn for several years, but there comes a time.
The Way They Were in 2011:  sadly, not all good things last forever

My two Liberty print Sencha blouses are past their best.  I made the first in August 2010, the second in August 2011.  They have served me well.  If I assume they have been worn once a week between April and September for 3 to 4 years, they have been washed at least 80 times each.  No wonder they are looking a bit faded and battered!  I lost a button from the blue rose version late last year, and that sealed its fate - I didn't feel it was fit for work after that.
Should I recreate them, or move on to a different silhouette?

Keira Knightley as Greta in "Begin Again"
I actually did some sewing last Sunday.  I started work on a pair of 1970's cropped trousers / culottes.  I had to stop because I didn't have any grosgrain ribbon for the waistband.  I felt an unfamiliar thrill of excitement as I tried them on for the first time to check the fit.
Ooh!  New clothes!
That was quite a relief - I thought I had lost my groove.

In search of inspiration, I found a new blog which is feeding my new-found appetite for a change of direction:  Into-mind, "personal style, minimalism and the perfect wardrobe".
It is a European blog, by Anuschka who is based in  Berlin.  I love her aesthetic.  There is an ebook to purchase, which is tempting.  I am working my way through the various themes of self-analysis, simplification, organisation... and for once I am not feeling overwhelmed.

Trying harder:  Ginger skirt, Plantain tee and Aestlight shawl:  all me-made
I want to sew-my-own as far as possible.
I remain committed to creating as clean and green a wardrobe as I can.
There will be no schizophrenic Mango purchases*.
One garment at a time... I'll get there...
Just in time for Me-Made-May!
Are you up for the challenge too?

* Edited to add:  in case you missed the story, in a fit of wardrobe frustration back in December, I tried to buy some Mango cropped trousers.  They didn't fit.  I sent them back.  It took them 6 weeks and at least 6 stern emails from me for them to refund my money.  In the meantime, I discovered  the extent of their involvement in unethical production  / supply chain practices.  I learned my lesson.  But this would not have happened if I had stuck to my pledge to make my own clothes.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Blatant Josh Promotion

Good morning!
Happy Easter Monday to those of you who are on holiday today!
(Don't get me started on the Scottish non-recognition of Easter...)

Yesterday, I reached the bind-off of my latest test-knit for Josh Ryks, Sword of a Knitter.
And as if by magic, this morning's in-box included an invitation to participate in the Mystery Knitalong for the amazing Ad Hoc Shawl.  Woo hoo!

Should you join in?
Of course you should!
And if you are quick, you can get the pattern for $4 instead of $7.20 - bargain!  Cheaper than a chocolate egg :)

Here's what Josh says about this MKAL:

From April 5th-April 11th, get the newest MKAL shawl pattern for only $4!
From April 12-17th, the pattern goes up to $5!
After the sign-up phase (April 5th-17th), the pattern will go up to full price, so grab the pattern while you can!
The discount will mysteriously appear when you add it to your cart! No coupon code necessary!

Ad Hoc? Why did you pick that name, Josh? Well. Let me tell you…
ad hoc (ad hok, hOk), adv. 1. for the special purpose or end presently under consideration. - adj. 2. concerned or dealing with a specific subject, purpose, or end. 1550-60; Latin: for this
Does that answer your question? Perhaps if I point it out a wee bit more…
Ad Hoc as a shawl deals with a particular technique with a particular end. It is fully made of STRIPES and deals with them in such a way that you may not have seen before, while having a BLAST with construction and COLOR!
So grab those sticks, some fabulous yarn, and let’s get these stripes moving! The techniques used in this shawl make for a simple, fun knit that most knitters should be able to do, regardless of level of knitting. It uses a wee bit of short-rowing, stripes, and simple knitting techniques to really give the piece a fantastic shape and finish!

Size: One Size
Recommended yarn: 3 colors of fingering weight yarn in solid, tonal, or variegated colors. Sample uses MJ Yarns Opulent Fingering Weight (80% Superwash Merino / 10% Nylon / 10% Silk) in the Steel(A), Glowing Eel (B), and Tweak (C) colorways.
Yardage: Color A: 400 yds/ 366 m; Color B: 180 yds/ 165 m; Color C: 180 yds/ 165 m
Needles: 32” US size 5 / 3.75 mm circular needles
Gauge: 6 sts to the inch in garter stitch on US size 5 / 3.75 mm needles
Notions: stitch markers, tapestry needle, scissors
What is the schedule for the clues?
Good question! The sign-ups for the shawl run from April 5th – April 17th . The first clue goes out on Saturday 18th and the next clue is released one week after until all five clues have been released.
So to recap:
  • Sign-ups run from the 5th of April through the 17th.
  • Clue #1: April 18
  • Clue #2: April 25
  • Clue #3: May 2
  • Clue #4: May 9
  • Clue #5: May 16

Saturday, April 04, 2015

This Woman in Clothes

I rediscovered  a blogger I used to know as No Signposts in the Sea.
You can find here.
I stole half of her haircut ;)
Recently she wrote :

"Living in the countryside has changed my clothing choices a lot more than I'd like to admit. I dress more cautiously, because people stare. I never thought that I'd become that person whose style is dictated by others.

I've always had two style identities: one that's clean, somewhat androgynous, the other romantic and dramatic. My work-self has no style identity. It just tries to survive the daily grind."

I read this shortly after tossing India Knight's latest book across the kitchen table in disgust.  At 50 plus she tells me that the aim above all others is not to appear ridiculous, to fit in.

There is a wonderful made-up Old Norse-ish word which I came across in my reading of Beautiful Wreck:  “Beiskaldi”, which Larissa Brown translates as:  "bitter-cold-griping-bitch".  It is an expression that I see in the faces of so many women (let's face it - the RBF).

I desperately do not want to become that woman, but the more time goes on (and I have been back in Smallsville for almost 11 years now), the more I feel my face freezing over, giving nothing away, giving nothing

Occasional flashes of human kindness take me by surprise. Most of the time I feel trampled, squashed and kept in my place.
But I do not accept that this is my place.
Until I can escape again, I need to have the courage to be myself.
Photo by Christine taken at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival
My new haircut has variously been described as: "like a prisoner of war", "edgy", "daring", "brave" and "terrible". 
It seems to inspire hostility, fear, or derision. 
There was nothing to lose by dye-ing the fringe lilac because I had already tipped the balance of what is tolerable.

Reading "Women in Clothes" is deeply therapeutic.  It reminds me that there is a whole diverse world out there. 

There are women who choose to dress as men and vice versa.  There are women who work in garment factories who can't afford to buy the "cheap" clothes they are employed to mass-produce.  There are women whose hats smell of strawberry shampoo and others who are so squeaky clean they do not leave a trace:  robot women!  Women who choose to wear the hijab because they feel it grants them freedom.   Women who believe it is "more punk" to wear conventional clothing and devote their creative energies to something other than dress.

I have started to write a review of this book so many times, but it is very hard to summarise.  It began as a survey of a handful of women and expanded by word of mouth / email connections into something much much bigger. I have read reviews which doubt its quasi-anthropological approach to how women dress, but I love the  insights it gives me into other women's approach to life and their appearance.

It is a  mistake to view the interviewees as "representative" because what this book does more than anything else is celebrate difference.  And it does this through an incredibly diverse range of responses to the survey questions. I use the word "response" as an art teacher would.  Some of the women have presented their "collections" of white sneakers, bobby pins, even stains!

One of the most interesting sections is a series of photographs of interviewees' mothers, taken before they had children.  Each interviewee describes the person they see in the picture and talks about the woman their mother later became.
Another photo essay presents six women wearing each other's clothes - without comment.  Which one looks comfortable in their own skin?  Who has on their armour to face the day, their own uniform, their costume?
The other side of my haircut, emptying the compost pail after work

In my fiftieth year I find myself somewhere I do not want to be.  This book is a point of reference, a reminder that the possibilities for reinvention are endless.
That my age does not have to dictate my appearance.
That I do not have to bow to convention.
"Fitting in" is not the only way forward.
Two more bags of clothes went to the charity shop today.  They included the interview suit I wore 11 years ago, now hopelessly out of date and fragrant with mould.  That says it all.
Whichever direction I choose next, I  am clear that it will require a simpler, cleaner version of me.  I am no longer interested in novelty prints or girlish details.
My notebook is full of longer skirts, solid colours, stronger lines.
It's all a bit more grown-up looking.
Maybe it's time.