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 :-)

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Off topic: free screensavers

Hi guys! It's totally off the usual sewing topic, but I thought I'd share a couple of screensavers I've made in the last couple of months for work (well, for my computer at work - I wasn't commissioned to do them or anything!) Offices can be boring and I figured a screensaver is as good a place as any for some mild light relief.

The 'messages' maybe reflect the fact that I'm a personal assistant in a team full of people who like to get in a tizz about 'urgent' things, I don't know - can you can tell that I'm the one who likes to stay calm by relativising? I mean, it's not like any of us are going to die over it or anything. Anyway, they're free to use should you wish to!

:: I'M NOT HERE ::
download here

:: DON'T PANIC! ::
download here

And I'm assuming you know or can work out how to change your computer's screensaver all by yourself :-)

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Tiny pocket Hemlock

Hello!  How are you today?  I'm feeling a little underwhelmed - Sunday evenings tend to have that effect, don't they?  Plus I'm about to show you a fairly unexciting t-shirt. But then life isn't always exciting is it, so, well - suck it up haha! :-)  Yeah, I'm keeping it real with the sewing blogging here. It just felt like time for a chat, so here I am.

So I made a knit hemlock. I can't really remember why to be honest, apart from a kind of sewist's curiosity - just to check out what all the fuss is about.  It is indeed a very easy sew, and clearly an excellent base for all sorts of variations - but then you knew that already. I used a remnant of brown/cream striped jersey and slapped a tiny gold pocket on it (no explanation needed, surely. It's a tiny gold pocket).  On me it's considerably less oversized than it is on Jen, ahem. (Shits given: zero)

I finished the neckline, sleeves and hem by turning under 1cm and coverstitching. People with coverstitch machines - do you have trouble tying the ends off? I thought I'd pulled the thread through and tied them up really carefully, but still the sleeve hems have unravelled after a couple of washes (see below). Any tips for me? Plus they flip to the inside which is really annoying, I guess it's because it's a pretty narrow hem. Next time I'll finish the sleeves with little bands/cuffs anyway as I'd like them to be a teensy bit longer.

I did have grand plans for a bunch of other quick, fun hemlock tees - I even started sewing one with some rather nice flutter sleeves cut on (get me, fancying things up). But its been distinctly autumnal in temperature round here recently, and once I realised I'd given up hope of an indian summer, I couldn't bring myself to carry on. This bothers me tremendously - I absolutely hate UFOs, I have to finish things or chuck them out, but I just can't bring myself to do either with this one. Really, I think a tee like this is generally an instant gratification kind of project, isn't it? Which doesn't work so well when there's going to be a six to nine month delay before you actually get to wear the outcome.

Ugh. Autumn. Sunday evening.

Actually I can't wait for Monday morning tomorrow - we've had some seriously irritating bad behaviour from the kids this weekend (well one of them, but I won't identify which, to save potential embarrassment when he's older. Oh wait, oops...)  There are many things to like about the office (adult company, intellectual stimulation, relative quiet, coffee) but what I'm most looking forward to this week is the chance to speak again without whatever I say causing someone to throw furniture around while manically cackling with laughter and attacking me with plastic ninja turtles. (And in the unlikely even that that did happen, we'd just have the person concerned carted off by security or the doctor and it would totally not be my problem. It's all about context...)

ANYWAY. Now for some random other things, which might be marginally more exciting than the hemlock, for those of you who've stuck this post out to the end.

First, yesterday I realised that quite literally* EVERYBODY (*god I hate when people say that) on Instagram was signing up for Periscope, which is basically the same thing but with live video. So I did too (I know, I know, I'm such a sheep). I have to be honest: this kind of thing makes me feel really old. My phone asked did I want to sync it with my twitter account and I said yes, and as a consequence I can tell you that I think my username is the same on both: @jo_sews. Right? (Er, good luck finding me there, should you wish to...)  I did one video so far and, having replayed it, realise that next time it would be better not to put my finger over the microphone half way through. Anyway, it's pretty fun to hear my sewing friends speak and see them in live action, so if you're at all tempted, come and join us!

Second - this is a thing that is actually, truly exciting! Drum roll please!!! ... On Thursday 29 October, I will be in London, for the sole purpose of fabric shopping and meeting some of my lovely online friends!  Yippee!!  For the moment, it's just me and the lovely Marilla (yes, I get to fangirl in person!), and I think we're probably not up for organising a sewing meet of enormous proportions (which is why this announcement is hiding at the end of a fairly boring post - just for the true fans hehe), but if you're around and free and fancy joining us at some point - please just say so! There are loads of you lovely UK-based sewers that I'd love to meet, and it drives me nuts that I'm there fairly often and still never manage to meet up with anyone!  We don't have a specific plan yet but the general idea is Goldhawk Road and/or Walthamstow market (are these combinable??), and if I can fit in a quick pilgrimage to Loop as well, I'd be a very happy lady...

Have a happy Sunday evening, everyone! Or Sunday morning / Monday morning / whatever day it is when you're reading this (* delete as applicable).

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