Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Maxi cardi

Hello and Happy New Year my dears! Having gone all seasonal in my last post, I have nothing January-appropriate to say for myself - no resolutions, reflections, what-have-you - unless you count the inner ROAR of happiness I did yesterday when my order of Jungle January appropriate fabric arrived.  Now if only I can find the time to actually sew it up...

Last September I started working four full days a week again. For the four previous years, I worked five mornings a week and spent the afternoons at home or out and about with my kids - and I honestly hadn't realised just how much sewing (or playground knitting) this allowed me to get done. Between the homework, the after-school activities, the washing and all the other household stuff, I was nonetheless managing to squeeze in a good hour or more of making most days. I got out of work with half the day's energy left, and the older the kids got, the freer my hands became. Happy days. Productive ones!

Now, however. Ugh. By the time we all get home, I'm knackered. By the time we've all eaten and the kids have gone to bed, I'm good for nothing but lounging, and possibly knitting, on the sofa. And it turns out that one simply cannot get as much sewing done in one day off as one would over a few afternoons. One needs breaks, and sometimes one is just not in the mood to sew all day anyway.  And so, I have recently come to the sad realisation that, for the time being, I am just going to have to accept that I can't sew as much as I want, in either time or output.

Now, this change was for the sake of a job I like very much, which is working out well, and while I do miss my afternoons, I wouldn't change things back (at least not quite yet). But still, it is with rather bittersweet feelings today that I'm blogging one of the relatively few things I managed to make this autumn. As with many a successful project, this one finished with me on a creative high, full of enthusiasm to make more! fantastic! things! But looking at these pictures several weeks later, all I can feel is impatience and frustration at not having done so yet.  Which is a shame, because this make was (is) absolutely not disappointing or frustrating at all.  In fact, it's a winner.

It's a hot pink wool jersey knee-length cardigan. Hot pink! Wool jersey! Knee-length cardigan! I just love everything about it! I'm blaming the Esme maxi cardigan by Named, it just wouldn't get out of my head, and when I realised I could make something very similar using the Oslo pattern I already had, it was basically a foregone conclusion.  I spent a long time searching for a (possibly mythical) kind of funky, chunky boucle fabric - including draping myself with about every expensive wool knit on Goldhawk Road when I met up with Jane, Marilla and Jenna in October - before deciding that this fabric in my stash would suit me better anyway (I really don't do chunky very well at all). It's a wool knit which came home from another sewing meet up, the legendary Paris visit in November 2014.  I love it so much, I had been fearful of making the wrong thing with it ever since. Fortunately, this was absolutely the right thing!

Hot pink is definitely my colour :-)  And this fabric is truly lush: soft and springy, with a cool feel and a robust but drapy hand - being wrapped in it for almost the entire length of my body is basically like being swaddled in hug all day.  A hug with - of course - pockets! The Oslo pattern is ideal for adding nice deep pockets to - you just add some length to the side front panel and then fold it back up on itself; the whole thing gets sewn into place when you attach the side seams and front/neck band.  Clear as mud? Like so:

While I very carefully calculated the length I wanted before cutting (to make sure those pockets would be in exactly the right place), I left button placement for the very end. I'm glad I did so for a couple of reasons. One is that I couldn't have accurately guessed where they needed to go anyway - the top button sits right on my low waist, much higher than I would have expected but holding things perfectly in place around my midriff. The other reason is that I really wasn't sure about the width of the neckband. And indeed, when I first tried the finished cardigan on, I was just swamped in fabric - it looked sloppy and way too much for my figure (ha! My, er, waif-like frame...). I ended up folding the entire neckband back on itself in half, and stitching it down to the seam allowance to hold it in place.  This looks MUCH better on me.

Of course, now the neckband was half the width, it was also twice the layers of fabric. Buttonholes were an issue. Thick jersey is not the easiest to put buttonholes in, and my machine has been making a spectacular mess of them recently anyway. So, I improvised, and hereby present my first ever half-assed bound buttonholes!!

They're not real bound buttonholes, obviously, because I did them last and thus had no means to cover up the back nicely. I trimmed as neatly as possible and handstitched the little pieces of fabric at the back with a blanket stitch. I think it came out pretty good given the thickness of the material, and they're not visible anyway - all in all, I'm really pleased with the solution. Plus, I love the big shiny buttons.

So yes, you can probably tell there's a lot I like about this maxi cardi. Quite apart from being super comfy, it also feels very stylish in a slightly different, little bit low key, not-trying-too-hard kind of way. It garners compliments, especially on the colour - people love to tell me how bright I am when I'm wearing it.

Which is great, because I also made a matching hot pink hat:

This is deceptively simple pattern. While I'm completely in awe of Anneke's hat knitting improv, I am the opposite kind of knitter and I like my hand held by people who have done more of it than me, so I bought some instructions for what looks like a very plain hat. And it is a very plain hat, but it's also perfectly shaped with a delicious double brim, and there is no way I could have worked it out by myself.  Supporting independent knit designers for the win! Should you be a raveller, my notes are here - and can I just say how much I LOVE Ravelry? My goodness, what a resource, and what lovely, knowledgeable people hang out there!  Also, you should totally check out Anneke's knitting-related photoshopping here (be warned: you might die laughing).

So there we are. 2016 kicked off with lots of long rambling as usual.  How does sewing fit into your life, do you have particular times that work and others that don't? Any tips for me as I suffer with withdrawal symptoms?

Maxi cardi jazz hands!!!

And that's me over and out :-)

Thursday, 24 December 2015

A Timeless Classic

Ah, Christmas! If you can't make/wear/blog a novelty print party dress and do silly edits on the photos, well, when can you?

I'm not exactly on the Roisin end of the spectrum when it comes to fit & flare dresses, novelty print or otherwise. But last November, I got this pattern free with a sewing magazine and was seized with the urge to make one. I probably wouldn't have followed up on that urge if it hadn't been for the realisation that such a dress could be endlessly re-used each holiday season, for one or at the most two wears a year, until it falls apart or I die of boredom. (Or develop more refined tastes in party clothing. I really can't decide which of those outcomes is most likely to happen first).

Thus, the silly party dress was made. I can attest that it performs perfectly, having worn it for Christmas dinner last year: those nice deep pleats around the waist allow for as much overeating as I regrettably tend to do on that occasion. And I deliberately didn't fit the bodice too closely either, because, well, same reason.

The photos are all kind of the same, but I couldn't choose between the various festive poses I managed to pull. Best to roll with it, right? Here we go...

Shhhh! Um, because... you might wake the elves??

Bauble inspection pose. In the snow. Indoors.

How to rescue a good picture of the dress accompanied by an atrociously bad picture of the face:

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to realistically blow a kiss at the self-timer? Actually, a number of you probably do I suppose #bloggerproblems.

You may have spotted that I don't have any matching shoes. Not really a problem, as I'm never going to wear it outside anyway.

However, I do have coordinating jewellery.


Merry Christmas!! May you get tons of sewing-related presents!

Friday, 30 October 2015

Leaves on the line: a shawl for Bomma

I don't often show you my knitting, do I?*

(* unless you follow me on instagram, in which case I hardly ever show you my finished knitting).

Theoretically, this is because knitting is a lot slower than sewing, and tends to happen disproportionately in autumn, and, well, I'm just more used to talking about sewing. But just because something happens less often doesn't mean it's not happening at all, and as a matter of fact I knit all year round, plus, I'm actually very capable of wittering on about all kinds of random crap (in case you hadn't noticed). No, that's not the reason I don't blog about it. The reason is: I'm rarely proud of my knits in the way I'm proud of my sews (yes, as a noun. Suck it up).

I've knit enough now to more or less know what I'm doing, or to be able to figure it out. I know when I'm prepared to troubleshoot and when I'm prepared to frog it and start again. I can follow the instructions, which is an achievement in and of itself: learning to read knitting patterns is like learning a foreign - nay, ALIEN - language (and don't even ask me about knitting from charts). But generally, I just don't have the experience, the feel, for it yet that turns out the level of finish I'd like.

I know realism and fail-commiseration have their own, rightful places on sewing and crafting blogs.  It's not like I deliberately avoid those things. But what can I say? It's just more fun to share the things that turned out cool, isn't it?

Yes. It is. And so we have here a piece of knitting that, ok, I'm pretty pleased with. VERY pleased with, in fact!

I made it for my husband's Bomma - his grandmother - who turned 90 last week. I don't wear a great deal of shawls myself, and really not ones with lace patterns, but for a while I'd been itching to try one anyway simply because there are so many patterns out there that look fantastically fun to knit (see point 14). Which this was! It's deceptively simple and surprisingly quick, yet those leaf shapes are really high impact - and it was a little bit like magic watching them appear.

The pattern is Leaves On The Line by Susan Ashcroft, who is otherwise known as the stitchnerd and has legions of devoted fans on ravelry.  I can now be counted as one of them - both the design and the explanations are incredibly intuitive, and this was one of the most relaxing things I've ever knit. (If you'd like more technical details, my ravelry notes are here). Plus, SHE'S FROM BRUSSELS! Which is where all the cool kids live, don't you know?

This weekend there was a big family party for Bomma - literally. She's the lynchpin of an enormous extended family, having (step)mothered thirteen children - who now have children of their own, who now have children of their own, and everyone plus spouses was there. We estimated about 80 people present, all of them related to each other in some way.

Understandably I think, at 90 years of age, Bomma had instructed 'no presents'. But me and the husband decided that what she really meant was that she didn't want to be swamped with stuff, especially considering the number of people involved, and that something handmade and useful would be exempt. 

We didn't want to make a fuss, and gave it to her quietly as we were leaving. She opened it out, and we had a little chat about the knitting, and then she looked up at us, and smiled and said:

"You know, I don't like presents usually, because, well, people these days just don't make an effort."

Which was about the best thing anyone has said about a homemade present ever.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Something for the weekend

One Friday morning a few weeks back I woke up wanting to wear my rockbuex.

Not the rockbuex. Don't worry, all will be explained.

Problem: the rockbuex wasn't cold proof.  Summer was cruelly short-lived this year, and that Friday morning, the only things I could find that went with the rockbuex were t-shirts, which was not going to cut it any more. So the first thing I did, after a cup of tea but before breakfast, was sew a jumper.

Here. Rockbuex + emergency sweater:

It's not going to win me any style awards, but this cropped Linden with a hem band hits the rockbuex in exactly the right place, taking the whole thing just far enough over the line (for me, anyway) between oversized pyjamas and acceptable street wear. Nothing more or less than super-comfy, super-relaxed stuff for Friday through Sunday. Happy happy.

Excuse the face #Fridayisforderps

But some projects just spontaneously breed other projects, don't they? And once I'd made the Linden, I realised that I wanted with toddler-like urgency needed more things with sporty 5 cm elastic waistbands, so I could mix and match the comfy stuff all weekend and never have to squeeze myself into a pair of jeans again, or at least not before the day I get round to making jeans that fit, which is very likely to be several decades hence (does anyone else have projects that just appear in your head as a fully formed thought, exactly like that overly long sentence?) Also because, well, different shoes need different outfits. Of course. Even when it's just one pair of trainers or the other.

Or perhaps all this was actually just a load of mental excuses for making an Ilsley skirt. *LOVE* those hem curves.

Like with the rockbuex, I used my favourite, most comfy waistband technique, which is: 5 cm wide elastic threaded through and then topstitched down twice, making a channel in the middle for a drawstring.  Cheapskate tip: shoelaces make excellent drawstrings. They can be found in good range of colours and thicknesses without too much difficulty, and cost about half as much as the average crafting cord, and BONUS the ends are already finished.

Both the jumper and the skirt were made from sweatshirt fabric I had in my stash. The black for the sweater cost 2.5 euros in a sale two years ago - I got 5 metres of it, and there's still a good bit left (see here for a previous, not very different, outing). The grey for the skirt I bought at Les étoffes du Sentier in Paris last January - it was 3 euros a metre, and I got four, and have just squeezed out this and a Freemantle coat from it with nothing but tiny scraps left over. All in all extremely satisfying!

The fact that these were stash projects, and one of them was a TNT pattern I'd made multiple times before, also meant they came together extremely quickly.  Both of them that same Friday, in fact.  And I have to admit - I sort of hate to during #slowfashionoctober, but I must -  I have quite a serious weakness for the quick & dirty when it comes to my homemade clothes. I guess fast sewing isn't the same as fast-fashion in the high street sense, but I do think sometimes the "rush" of having an idea and executing it IMMEDIATELY is in no small way similar to a shopping high.  This was brought home all the more by the fact that my next project was/is the aforementioned Freemantle coat which forced me to take things slower. I don't know what to think about this. On the one hand, well, so what? My fabric sources and project choices are what they are, and I'm not sure what I could do otherwise, realistically. On the other had, I sort of feel guilty. Should I, do you think?

Well anyway, let's not end on too serious a note. Here I am, getting out and about and taking action shots for the Better Pictures Project:

God it's exhausting to even look at. And watch the grass - my own personal launch pad!

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Roberts Collection: dungadress!

Hello hello, and happy weekend! How are you all, fellow sewists? I hope you're having a good one! After a few busy weekends with little time at home, me and the kids have been enjoying some quality time going nowhere these last couple of days, and I'm pleased to report that I've made a decent dent in a warm winter coat project. Hopefully I'll have a couple of finished things to share soon. (Shock news - more Lindens! Does it get boring to read? They never get boring to make or wear).

Anyway, in my humble opinion, the highlight of this weekend - at least as far as the sewing blog world is concerned - is indisputably the launch of Marilla Walker's Roberts Collection.  This, my friends, is not just a new sewing pattern: it's a bargainous FOUR sewing patterns all in one! And are you surprised that I love it? No, I expect not. Let's look at my test dress, shall we? :-)

This is view C, the dungaree dress. Unfortunately for representative blogging purposes, this version has actually been changed the most since testing, so the version you see here is not exactly the same as the finished pattern.  The main changes are slightly less ease at the waist seam (about 4cm less I think, so not an enormous difference) and the side closures, which I'll show you below. Overall though (no pun intended...) it's pretty much the same. My favourite feature in any case - the one that I think makes this design stand out - is the lovely slim straps. Combined with the low-slung waist, it's got the stylish slouch factor absolutely bang on. And as you know, I'm all about the stylish slouch :-)

So I attempted to take pictures out and about, dutifully doing my Better Pictures Project homework. I can't say they turned out great, mainly as I didn't exactly scout any interesting locations, I just went to the end of the street and back. But hey, it's a start (and I have better locations lined up!). These pics don't show you anything much new either, just me and the dress in natural light, but basically they're here because I had such trouble narrowing down how many photos to show you - I seriously, absolutely love this dress!  It's so bright and so comfy and so FUN, and in much the same way as a trapeze dress, it's just delightful how flattering it is when it feels so much like it shouldn't be. I'd always thought lack of waist definition was a figure-flattery risk, but I am so very, very happy to be discovering that it's a benefit! It's one of the things Marilla mentions as inspiration for the pattern collection - being a fan of wearing jeans, but not a fan of wearing waistbands - and I both totally agree, and totally think she nailed it.

Here's a side view so you can see a bit more what that all means in practice. The A-line shape hangs quite wide on this, which I like - though I do wonder if that's slightly different in the finished pattern. The front bib now draws in slightly more to meet the back, so I suspect the skirt is less trapezey and more of a classic A-line than mine is. But I really like this version as is, and while that little triangle you see at the side was a development that didn't make the final cut, I think it's a cute little detail. As and when I make this dress again, I'll be sticking with it!

Here are a couple of close ups of how the sides come together - and I think the lines here are just so flattering. It's kind of a 'big' garment but with a very light touch: those thin straps, back and bib shaping mean the overall effect isn't big at all. And the little pleats at the waist are just enough for a little extra breathing (ahem, eating) room, without being particularly noticeable at all.

And ah! The back! That strap/back piece symmetry!

Mum comment:  You're very bright.
Brother-in-law comment:  You're very yellow.
Husband comment:  It looks like an apron. Is that... a thing?
Friend H comment:  Err, Jo, your apron... oh, ok.
Friend B comment:  OK, either you made that dress, or it's designer. Right?

(Friend B wins, obviously).

What do you think? Could this pattern be an entire wardrobe solution for you - or are dungarees and jumpsuits just a step away from waistbands too far?  No prizes for guessing which side I'm on :-)

P.S. Quick edit to add: the fabric is a medium-weight denim with very slight stretch. In case the info is useful for reference purposes :-)

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