Thursday, 24 November 2016

A year in the making: knitted Cline sweater

I have decided to be a grumpy old git for the month of November.

It's dark and boring. Everyone is hunkered down doing nothing much but waiting for the December madness to kick off, and to be frank I'm feeling a bit bah humbug about that too. I like Christmas and all - in fact, generally I love it - but for Christmas to go smoothly in a month's time means engaging my brain NOW about things like travel and gifts and recipes, and my brain does not wish to be engaged. It would like to hibernate. It is asking itself what the hell it was thinking in September when it decided to knit masses of presents and bought all the wool and then just looked at it for a long time, because the appearance of Git Me that does not want to knit to a deadline while procrastinating on the big food-related to-do list WAS INEVITABLE.

Thing is, I know very well what September brain was thinking. It was thinking: I AM A KNITTING WIZZZZAAARD(-ess?)!!!!

Because of this jumper.

This jumper took over a year of knitting. No, actually, that's not true: it took over a year to complete, in which time I also knit several other things, because the knitting of this jumper was at once overwhelming (it's knit in pieces! Even when you've finished knitting it, it's not done!!) and overwhelmingly tedious. (Stockinette. Knit flat. In four separate parts. Insert crying emoji here). It's also knit in about the scratchiest wool I could find - well, in any case, the scratchiest wool I have ever knit with. All in all, it was not a smooth sensory experience.

Basically, this jumper was the very definition of knitting for the product, not the process.  However. I knew, from well before I even cast on, that I would love the product.  And the reason September brain was feeling so exuberant about its knit skillz is because I was right - all that hard work (ok, "hard work") finally paid off. I DO love it! 

There are people who don't like wearing scratchy wool.  There are people who think that a baggy gray jumper is too tedious to wear, let alone make (my mum helpfully voiced this opinion repeatedly). There are people who think dolman sleeves are the opposite of an interesting design feature.

I am not any of those people. And this piece of knitwear fits predictably, perfectly well into my weekend uniform of (skinny) jeans and (oversized) sweater. 

See? I'm smiling. (This picture was taken before November).


  • My notes on ravelry here

So, my northern hemisphere friends, how are you coping with the decreasing daylight? Any tips for me? Just no-one say hygge, ok.  And southern hemisphere friends - NO WAIT  DON'T TELL ME I DON'T EVEN WANT TO KNOW.

Er, sorry. I'll probably be in a better mood next time...


Thursday, 27 October 2016

La Maison Victor: Fran dress

You know a dress is a winner when you wear it to work on your birthday and two separate people ask if you're pregnant when you're most definitely not.

Yeah. That happened.

Fortunately, I have now officially reached the age of Give No Sh*ts (see also: pink hair; tattoo). Turns out that people find it extra doubly embarrassing when you refuse to be embarrassed by their embarrassing remark - and friends, I must admit that I found it just ever so slightly EXTREMELY satisfying to see them squirm.

Plus, besides the Giving of No Sh*ts, I had fashion on my side. OVERSIZED IS A THING! And why should those of us who know that be cowed by the maternity assumptions of those who don't?!! It's hella wide and gloriously comfortable!

So, reasons why this is a brilliant dress:

1. Shape: on trend! (Probably. Right? I don't really care anyway!)

2. Fabric: viscose! FABRIC OF THE GODS. Light and flowy and warm YES PLEASE THANK YOU, especially for only 6 euros/metre (Brusselites, get yourselves to Berger, they currently have it in various prints).

3. Fit: nailed! You'd think a loose dress like this doesn't need much fitting, but it's absolutely got to hang right or it really will resemble a maternity outfit. I started with my high bust measurement, traced off the corresponding size and then...
  • Added a dart. Much as I love the dartless FBA, given that I was adding 2" width to a woven bodice, I wanted more precision. I used the paper pattern piece to locate my bust point and determine where/how long I wanted it, and I must say it turned out perfect. You'd hardly know it's there. STEALTH DART!
  • Lengthened the bodice centre front by 1", i.e. also more room for the boobs.
  • Shortened the bodice centre back by 1", i.e. swayback adjustment.
  • Did a 1cm forward shoulder adjustment and...
  • ... a 0.5cm narrow shoulder adjustment.

Guys, this dress fits so well it actually feels weird! I have NEVER before worn a dress that didn't constantly need to be pulled forward, and where the sleeves sit perfectly on the edge of my shoulders. Or a dress with a gathered rectangle skirt that didn't ride up in front and hang low at the back. The whole thing just stays put where it is, from the moment I put it on. It's like a whole new way to wear clothes! And it's incredible what a difference this all makes to how flattering it is ("when's it due" questions aside). It is far superior to my Lucie dress - which is very much the same shape and concept, but infinitely less wearable because I didn't make the same adjustments.

Yep. That's my face for "I Officially Love This Dress".

Almost as much as I Officially Love Biscuits And Cake.

OK actually maybe I can understand the pregnancy comments after all.

(Pattern: Fran dress, La Maison Victor, 3rd edition 2016. Slight hang-ups about other people's opinions: model's own)


Monday, 12 September 2016

Closet Case Files Sallie

Helloooooo! How are you all? I hope you've been having nice summers/winters, depending on  your hemisphere.  My summer's been spiffing, thank you very much - a laid back July at work, the kids happily employed at various sport camps, then off to Germany and Slovenia for plenty of fresh air and beautiful landscapes, all rounded off with a weekend of festival fun in the UK. And now, here I am, just hanging out in the garden at home.

Hanging out! Geddit?!! Y'know, the swing...? Yeah, ok. Moving swiftly on.

So, I made a dress. And I'm going to tell you about it even though the photos of it are so glaringly bright as to make the details indistinguishable. Better than no photos, eh? Just shield your eyes from my blindingly radiant bosom.

The pattern is no doubt recognisable to most readers as the Sallie jumpsuit/dress by Closet Case Files. As you can see, I combined the kimono-sleeved bodice of view A with the maxi skirt of view B.

The pattern pieces for the bodice front and back are actually identical, which - though I have no doubt it works fine for many - I decided on first sight to ignore, because boobs. I traced off separate front and back pieces, tracing the neckline and shoulder according to the size for my high bust (I can't remember which size it was, sorry) and then having the kimono sleeve meet the side seam two sizes up, corresponding to my full bust and waist measurements. So basically a lazy fudge rather than a full bust adjustment.

Then, I knew I wanted a more blousy effect to the bodice than it is as drafted, so I added 2 inches in length all round the bodice - and then an extra inch at the centre front to complete my cheater FBA. In the end, I also decided to curve the back waist seam back upwards about an inch in the middle - and as you can see above, it's a good thing I did, because there's still plenty of fabric pooling in the small of my back as it is. Yep, swayback adjustments basically happening systematically here these days.

Do you too ever feel like sewing is like one long voyage of discovering new and previously unimagined fit adjustments? I do. As soon as my eye is fully trained to spot one issue and my brain and hands capable of correcting it, I notice something else. Like the monkey mind will get bored if it has no more new fit issues to agonise over. Ugh!

Anyway, once I was done with the bodice adjustments, sewing this up was a dream. The fabric was ordered from the lovely Maeve during a sale a couple of months ago, and has just the right weight for both easy sewing and wearing. I lined the bodice with some plain white viscose jersey as I didn't fancy trying to line stripes up on the inside too (the green would have shown through to the right side). I also added a knee-length lining to the skirt, which isn't in the pattern. It ends just above the slits in the skirt, and keeps things skimming smoothly over all the lumps and bumps and potential VPL in the tum/bum areas. I do have some slight neckline gaping on one side of the neck, but I think it might be down to a hollow-ish chest on my smaller-boob side rather than having stretched out the fabric (I reinforced it immediately after cutting). And the lining peeks out sometimes from one of the sleeves, which would no doubt not happen if I ironed it, but no. Not ironing it.

And in terms of wearing, well you've heard it from plenty of bloggers before: this dress is fabulously comfy and easy to wear. You just chuck it on and you're fully clothed, relatively stylish, and you get to swish around in a maxi feeling all fab. Those slits in the skirt are seriously good! I've got to say, I'm really impressed with the Closet Case patterns - I've made a couple this summer and have basically lived in them (more on the other soon!). The styles are great, the drafting spot on, and the sewing hits that sweet spot where challenging meets fun and they do a little happy dance together. I really enjoyed listening to Heather on Seamwork radio where she talks a bit about how she aims to pitch her patterns, in terms of both the styles and the sewing, and I think she's hitting it exactly on the head.

OK, I've been hesitating about asking this final question, but I'm just going to do it.  See when bodices have cut on kimono sleeves, like this pattern or, say, By Hand London's Anna dress. Do you find that the armpits get rather rapidly sweaty, compared to other 'normal' sleeves? Or do I just need to attempt lowering the armhole a bit??

And why is it that my right armpit apparently sweats more than the left one (I swear it!)? Am I a freak of nature???


Thursday, 9 June 2016

Baggy trousers

Part of the reason I sew is to push the boundaries of what I think I'll wear. Dungarees, dungashorts, pinafore dresses, oversized harem pant/skirt hybrids, massive Japanese drapey sleeves, novelty print Christmas dresses (respectively here, here, here, here, here and here)...

... and today we add to that list - baggy trousers!

It just adds to the sense of adventure: not only am I making it up myself, instead of wearing what a shop says I should, I'm also not very sure what the hell kind of look I'm going to end up with anyway. I like to keep my sense of (fashion) self on its toes, apparently.

So yes, baggy trousers. When I saw Marilla Walker's Mercury collection, I pretty instantly decided it wasn't for me - and it remains highly unlikely you (or anyone else) will ever see me wearing palazzo pants à la view C. But a little while after the pattern's release, I took a closer look at the pleated cuff of view D, and, well, you know how it goes - I was intrigued and got sucked in.

Turns out, I am now in fact a baggy trouser-wearer.

(Plus another Linden top, these things have multiplied through my wardrobe like nobody's business).

I really like these trousers. The cropped length is flattering and makes me feel a bit stylish for once, and the ankle pleats are just cool. My fabric is a nice fluid-but-not-too-lightweight viscose/linen mix, which means everything hangs beautifully. But herein lies my little dilemma with these (and incidentally, with my rockbuex too).  As Liesl points out in her wide-leg style file, trousers like this are generally designed to sit on the natural waist for best draping effect - and unfortunately, I'm just not really a high waist waistband wearer, even when they're elasticated. It's proportionally the thickest part of my body, and I'm long-waisted too, so all my life I've worn everything I possibly can further down towards my hips. Which in this case just doesn't work: the whole effect is ruined and en plus it's supremely unflattering.

So I'm getting used to it. Partly a simple matter of habit, and partly a question of pairing these trousers with tops more cropped than I've generally worn (I have a pile of t-shirt hems to shorten this weekend!) And the more used to it I get, the comfier these trousers become.

Make no mistake. These trousers are COMFY.

In an effort to illustrate this somehow, I took inspiration from Gillian and did some sitting pics. Not sure the coffee-drinking pose is that successful though tbh.

Here I clearly demonstrate how attempting to look casual and relaxed actually has the opposite effect.

How's this? And by the way - what do you think of the bench?? Husband and daughter ordered it on a whim in February, having fallen victim to the charms of some random catalogue that arrived with the post. It's a bench WITH A POP UP TABLE FOR DRINKS. Yegads life is so exciting as a garden furniture consumer these days, isn't it? What will they think of next?? Now all we need is some summer. Oh and an end to the permanent building works. Because after 10 years in our house it would be nice for most corners of our outdoor space to not still look like this:

But those pleats tho.

With bonus cat hair. Esmerelda says you're welcome.


Monday, 14 March 2016

Summit solace pyjamas

Well, my dears. Hello!  How are you?  I'd love to offer you a cup of tea, if only the internet wasn't in the way, but there we go.  Let's just do the chatting part, shall we? I've missed you!

So, I mentioned a little while back that I've been working more these last months. Since the beginning of this year, things have really kicked off, and in a pretty fun way too. I LOVE my job now! It scores high points in the European-politics-geek league, I get to run around doing things I'm good at and like doing, so it's all good. But. Of course there's a But! The But is: I'm running out of space in my head for sewing.

Cue small-scale identity crisis, which at least added some interest to February so it wasn't all bad.  But I've spent almost five years leaving work at lunchtime and putting it immediately behind me, with oodles of afternoon ahead for playground knitting, short but frequent snatched sewing breaks, and - most importantly - the mental space to consider myself a full-time sewer who just happened to have a part-time job (and children. I haven't forgotten them, they're just not really relevant to the discussion at hand!) And now? I feel like I'm learning how to be myself again, with the goalposts truly and thoroughly moved. Not bad, just very different - and occasionally a little disconcerting. Just what kind of a sewer and/or person am I now?? (A post for another day, that!)

Anyway. How very greatly I'm appreciating the sewing that does happen! These Carolyn pyjamas - my first pair but, I very much hope, not my last - have been in almost constant use since I finished them in early January. In terms of sewing-effort investment, pyjamas offer a particularly high value return, don't they? You can wear them All. The. Time! (Almost).  A good pair of pyjamas is like the very best kind of friend, the one that knows exactly when and how to administer big hugs (and when not to). Especially when they're made of double gauze.

(The pyjamas. I don't have friends made of double gauze). (Yet).

And have piping everywhere.

(because my sewing machine's buttonhole function is officially shit)

Imagine, if you will, coming home from a summit at 3am (yes, dear readers, this happened to me).  You may have spotted various heads of state, but that's not enough to cheer up the prospect of being back there at 9am the next morning. All you have is the prospect of about 4 hours sleep, and you desperately want to make the most of it. What - what, I ask you?! - could possibly be better at that moment than the soft, comforting embrace of home made sleepwear? (Well, not finding a small child occupying my side of the bed would have been better I suppose. But that's not something I can sew a solution to).

I adore them, in all their crinkly, nubbly-fabricked, collar sticking-up glory. (The pyjamas, not the small child who regularly intrudes upon my bed. Obviously I love him, but, well, he's not made of double gauze is he? And he wriggles).

By the way: slim fitting pyjama bottoms* are the bomb. So much comfier than extra fabric bunching up where you don't want it. (*Feel free to snigger: I said bottoms!! Or have I been hanging around with the daughter too much?)

Anyway, that's me back on the blogging wagon. Clearly, blog writing is taking a bit of a backseat at the mo, what with wanting to spend my spare time on actual sewing and stuff - but I miss it, I like this little space which has brought me so many on and offline friends! (And which provides for all my sewing-related brain dump needs...)  I've been wondering about just deciding to do a random little post once a week or so, instead of waiting to have something to write about - those are actually my favourite kind of posts to read these days, so it feels like it makes sense. So, who knows. Hopefully I'll 'see' you again soon!

And for today - tell me: do you have multiple identities or roles to play? (No doubt - we all do!) What place does sewing take in them? Would less time sewing make you question your own existence, too?


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 :-)