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 :-)