Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mind The Gap

It's no use.
I have no energy to blog this week.
That's what happens when you take a single day off work in the middle of Committee Season!
I'll be back at the weekend with a pile of finished knits and maybe some sewing.
Meanwhile... enjoy some yarn pron ;)
This is a skein of Mind The Gap sock yarn from Trailing Clouds, a UK-based Etsy seller.
It knits up in regular 5-row stripes in colours taken from the London Underground map!
How. Cool. Is. That?!
And it is mine, all mine - mwaahahahaha!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Convent-ion of Knitters

On Friday morning I set out on a knitter's journey.
What I did on my holiday
I took the train to York, leaving my dear FL alone for only the second night in 8 years, to join Natalie and her Shed-ite Apostles at a convent in York.

To explain:  I am a member of The Yarn Yard group on Ravelry (the Shed):  one of the most supportive and friendly knitting groups you could imagine.  This was their 4th annual gathering in York, but it was the first time I had felt able to go, domestic circumstances being what they are.  This year, FL agreed that I MUST go, while he is still well enough to be left on his own.  And so... I did!

There was just one room left in the convent, for one night only, and it coincided with "cheap" train deals on Friday and Saturday, as opposed to mortgage-worthy fares on Sunday and Monday.  It was clearly meant to be!  Some of the knitters are there until Monday morning, but I am not sure I have the stamina for so much social interaction.  As it is, I am shattered.  Happy but exhausted!

York Minster in the snow
So what did I do?
I wrote a short story in the train heading south.
I cast on and knitted half a sock.
I cast on and knitted a third of a hat.
I was shown how to make yarn with a drop-spindle (but was the worst pupil ever!  Sorry Natalie!)
I learned how to knit two socks on one circular needle (Magic Loop - ooh!)
I ate the most amazing Gingerbread Chocolate Brownies (thank you Rachel!)

14 of us went to an Indian restaurant and knitted while we waited for our food... I'm not sure what the waiters thought!

I saw more i-pads in one room than ever in my life before... and every one was set to the Ravelry website!

I took part in a hand-made gift swap:  my Glasgow Mitts went to Sadie (what serendipity - she loves purple and sparkles!) and I received a lovely warm pure wool beret with the perfect button from Lucy (who lives in the same town as my mother!)
Duttons for Buttons - just a corner
I went to Duttons for Buttons.
I went to the Quilt Museum.
I went to a market stall and bought the freshest brightest Yorkshire forced rhubarb and cavalo nero direct from the man who grew it.

I took part in a book-swap and came home with The Bower Bird, which I started on the train :)

I joined in with a P-hop fundraiser (for Medecins Sans Frontieres):  everyone brought their unloved yarn / fabric / knitting books / fibre and piled it high.  When given the go ahead, all the brave souls dived in to select their most-wanted thing.  I was a chicken and aimed for the fabric!  After three rounds of "ready steady go", anyone could take anything they fancied.  In return, we make a donation to P-hop ("pennies per hour of pleasure").
P-hop and book swap goodies

And if you're thinking that's an awful lot to pack into 24 hours... you're right!
My head is still spinning, even if my hands are not.

Just the experience of being back in Yorkshire, my spiritual homeland...
Hearing clocks chime.
Being kept awake through the night by the sound of traffic.

Passing a bookshop with a window-display of Pugin's Ecclesiastical Ornament:  "Special offer!  Only £4.99"  with the confidence that this will attract local shoppers.
Ah York, I love you so.

Home with a new hat - thank you Lucy!
But it's good to be back home all the same.

P.S.  On the topic of get-aways, you might like to visit ScruffyBadger's blog to read my Desert Island Sewing interview :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Knitting for Others with Smelly Socks

Altruistic knitting continues apace!  I have finished my Glasgow School Mitts - woo hoo! However, as these are a "swap" knit, I can't reward myself for knitting them as I will be getting something in return anyway :)

Next in the gift-knit line (and eligible for self-bribery!) is the Spirograph headband (pictured far below), which stalled when I ran out of yarn.  There was a further hiccup when the shop sent me the wrong shade of grey.  I decided to keep the mistaken ball to knit yet another gifty hat:  Edda by Lisa Mutch.  Very hipster-looking! The mistake ball is the same shade of grey (though not the same brand) as the pattern.  This is already well underway - there's not much to it, really.
Edda - photo by Juju Vail
And as if I needed another hat project, Anne Hanson (Knitspot) has just published a fab slouchy beanie pattern, Stromming.  Just right for The Boy!  And I have some lovely MCN DK in the stash which will be perfect for it.

Stromming - photo by Knitspot, LLC
So that's my next three altruistic knits sorted.  And I have already purchased my reward: three bars of handmade soap from Future Primitive.  In case you think I shouldn't have bought them until I finished the knitting, can I just point out that I am not allowed to unwrap and inhale until each item is complete?! 

I discovered this handmade soap company just before Christmas, and I popped a sample bar in with several hand-knitted presents.  Do you store smelly soap in your sock / lingerie drawers?  I do!  And I had run out because I needed to actually use the soap.  I only kept one Christmas sample for "me" and it is already in action by the kitchen sink:  "Candlemaker" is a quite medicinal-smelling blend of essential oils, which is perfect for garlicky / fishy fingers.

For my reward soaps I chose the following:

Lemonade Lounger: "Sweet, tangy lemons and lemon leaves soaked in a Vanilla bean broth with a hint of garden soil"  This one has May Chang essential oil in it - the "happy scent", which I love.

The Voodoo You Do:  "Oodles and Oodles of Tea Roses with a scattering of Chocolate-coated Honeycomb surrounded by whisps of smouldering amber resin and lovers incense."  Mmmmm.

7 Sins:  "Banana cake infused with Ginger, topped with Vanilla Frosting and drizzled with melted Dark Chocolate. Toasted Madagascan Vanilla bean with a dribble of Honey and finished with a scattering of Hot Buttered Popcorn." Just yummy!

The last two are Valentine's Day specials, so will only be available for a limited time.
No, I'm afraid you can't eat them... though they are vegan :)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

FO: I'm Only a Poor Little Sparrow Top

Oh come on - you must remember that song?  Go on - have a nostalgia trip!

So what have we here, Roo?

I needed a palette-cleansing project.  Something to make and wear.  A fuss-free, everyday sort of a thing.
So I dug out my Renfrew pattern and grabbed the yard of Girl Charlee jersey that only arrived on Friday, thinking "quick tee".  Ha!  When did I ever take the simple path?

This particular jersey has a little bit of something non-cotton going on, making it drapier than plain t-shirt material.  (Rayon, says the web-site.)  It seemed like an awful shame not to work with that quality, so I rummaged around for ideas to add more volume without turning it into a maternity smock.

Simplicity 3692, out of print
Simplicity 2798
I really liked what I saw of a Built by Wendy tee pattern (Simplicity 3692, now out of print) which features a yoke with a lightly gathered bodice.

There is a similar style in Cal Patch's book, the Marguerite tee.

And Boden are selling something similar this season, the fabric-mix top.

I brewed these ideas for a while over a mug of tea and decided to use the yoke shaping from Simplicity 2798 (because I had it in my stash already) as the basis for a reworked Renfrew.  I redrafted the neckline of the yoke section to fall mid-way between a Renfrew and a 2798, and added 2 inches down the centre front of the Renfrew piece.

I hit on the idea of stitching a few rows of shirring at the centre front (using elastic in the bobbin) and gently gathering the top edge to absorb the rest of the excess fabric around the yoke.  My shirring is a bit squiggly, and so is my top-stitching, but hopefully nobody will be staring at my chest long enough to notice.
This has given the top a bit more ease at the bust than my standard Size 2 Renfrew, while the woven fabric of the yoke adds structure and stability.  I really like how it has turned out :)
I didn't bother with cuffs or hem-bands, but added 2 inches to the length of the Renfrew sleeves and body, then turned up a narrow double hem, which I stitched with a small zig zag.  I sewed the long seams with the vari-overlock stitch (number 6) and attached the yoke with an ordinary straight stitch.  All the sewing was done with my normal Bernina.  I still don't feel the need for a serger!

Patterns:  Renfrew top by Sewaholic in size 2 for back, sleeves and lower front.  Simplicity 2798 in size 4 for the yoke, with neckline lowered and the shoulder narrowed to line up with the Renfrew template.

Fabric:  One yard of "Sparrows in the Woods" jersey from Girl Charlee, $5.50 (plus postage - see below).  A scrap of cream broderie anglaise from a seemingly never-ending piece I bought from Ditto Fabrics a while back.

Other:  Half a yard or so of shirring elastic, used in the lower bobbin of the sewing machine.  An oddment of white cotton bias binding, cut in half lengthwise, to bind the neck edge.

I am really happy with it!
The fabric is quite thin but feels lovely and drapes well.  My new cardigan is a great colour match so I will even be able to wear it in the snow!
I like the contrast between the narrow sleeves and the slightly fuller front. 
It works well worn loose or tucked in.
Yup - it's a keeper! :D

A note about Girl Charlee:
A couple of people have asked me about the cost of buying fabric from the States.
This is the second time I have bought fabric from Girl Charlee and I have been very pleased with the quality of the fabric, speed of delivery (less than a week) and overall value.
On both occasions, I bought 3 yards of fabric for a total of 16 US dollars and paid 16.95 US dollars on top of that for postage.  Yes - I paid more for the postage than the fabric!  But when I worked it out, this came to a total cost of £21 for 3 yards of fabric, so £7 a yard.  That is cheaper than the last "cheap" jersey I bought from ebay within the UK, and I don't have a local source of knit fabrics.
I wasn't charged a customs fee for either parcel. 
So as long as I can make a lovely top for £7, I'll be going back to Girl Charlee :)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

No Jacket, a cardigan, a change of plan

Herein lies the next thrilling installment in the saga of Roo's Smart Jacket.
To recap:  Toast Size 10 was too big, so I returned it at great expense by First Class post on 5 January.  On Thursday, I realised I had neither received the smaller size in exchange, nor a notification that the returned item had reached the warehouse.  So I emailed them.  Within an hour or so they had rung me to process a refund to my account:  in the intervening period, the jacket had sold out in the smaller size.  SOB!  Lesson learned:  next time I should order multiple sizes to keep my options open, or re-order on the web straight away instead of waiting for a postal exchange to be processed.  I lost £12 in postage costs.  Grump.
No jacket.
Lucky I didn't plan an entire wardrobe round it, eh?  Humph.

Meantime... I bought a cardigan.  It's from Seasalt.  I liked it when I first saw it at full price, so I was pleased to get 33 % off in the sale.  It is pure lambswool.  It is very warm and soft and snuggly.  I could live in it.  I probably will.  Have you seen the snow out there?  Exactly.

Despite my ethical vetting of Seasalt's website, this cardigan (like the other one) is labelled "Made in China".  Obviously it must have been at the only ethical factory in the entire continent, or Seasalt would never have had the garment manufactured there, would they?  Would they?  Humour me.  I have to believe.

So... my sewing plan is upside down again.  Maybe I will start with a dress and take it from there.

My dear blog pal Jessica surprised me this week with an emergency care package containing 3 patterns, a piece of immensely-practical wool and a magnificent magenta Marimekko remnant from her recent make.  The spontaneous kindness of blog pals takes my breath away.  See that dress pattern?  It must be made!  I love that bow-trimmed collar!  And I haven't even used the fabric she sent me last year (and which I haven't blogged about because clearly I am an ungrateful cow)!

New resolutions:  (1) do not hesitate to say a public "thank you".  (2) Do not hesitate to use incoming wonders, or you will surely bury them in the stash.

 Speaking of which...
My Girl Charlee order arrived - woo hoo!

Those sparrows are already on the cutting room floor :)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Knitting ADHD

I still have not stopped hyperventilating over Learn to Knit Love to Knit.
See these little cardigans?  Double-knitting, mostly stocking stitch... but look at those lovely stitch details at the raglan edges and down the sleeves!

If I had any double-knitting yarn in the house I would have cast on already.  But I don't.  Oops.  I may have to change that situation soon.

That is the practical option for "which Big Thing to knit next".

Here is the wild one:

Tartan!  Knitted tartan!
OK, quite a lot of my obsession with this garment is being skewed by the gorgeousness of the model.  If I had that eyeliner and that lipstick and perfect black Audrey Hepburn hair and brown eyes I would look exactly like her in that sweater!  Err... no.

But imagine the fun I would have knitting it!  The hours spent with colourcharts before I even managed to match or substitute all those shades of wool!  The original is a mix of  J&S and JC Rennie shetland wools.  So naturally I am thinking of using Alba Yarn.

Now I feel quite deflated.

Here is what I have been knitting:  the first Glasgow School Mitt.
The top picture is a truer colour.
Mitt 2 is in progress.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Reading: Joshua Spassky by Gwendoline Riley

On Saturday morning, I picked up Joshua Spassky by Gwendoline Riley, thinking I might start it while I sipped my coffee.  Several hours later, I was finished.

But although the author's story had ended, my head was full of my own spinning reminiscences and reflections.  I should have taken the time to write them down, while they were fresh in my mind, but I feel sure they will come back.  Because Gwendoline Riley inspires me to write.  

Don't get me wrong - this book is not perfect in the way that Cold Water verged on perfection, in its sharp depiction of a rain-drenched, alcohol-soaked, indie-scene Manchester seen through the eyes of a young writer.  But in the same way, it immersed me in the strangely compulsive relationship of two characters from that after-hours culture which I was never quite a part of, back then. 


Joshua Spassky is no great literary hero.  Our young writer does not try to impress us with his looks or his wit or his manly qualities.  But she and he nevertheless arrange to meet, after an absence of years, in neutral territory in small-town America.  The place is not important.  Its very lack of associations provides the blank sheet of paper upon which their encounter will be recorded.  And what happens?  Nothing much.  They drink too much.  They have parallel conversations.  They fall out and they fall in love.

But the writing is so well-measured.  I can smell Joshua's skin.  I can hear his drawling voice.  I recognise the green twilight of their shabby hotel room, that bewildering haze of feelings that washes over each of them in turn, but seems destined to remain unspoken.

And in contrast to their drifting, unfocussed state of living-in-the-moment, there is the crackling observation of those down-to-earth characters who populate the everyday world around them.  People who are oblivious to any heights and depths of emotion as they simply get on with the business of the day to day.  People to whom love is:  "right there... all the time.  Like a saucer."  Whose bereavements are handled "by the Co-op".  Whose memories are marked by faded photographs and their stains of "neon blue oily fingerprints."

Gwendoline Riley's books are not for everyone.  You would be well within your rights to accuse her characters of wallowing in booze and self-pity.  Does it always rain in Manchester?  Does nobody keep normal daylight hours and hold down a regular job?  Isn't it time they all stopped living like students and calling themselves writers and musicians?

Ah, but if you can still remember those days when the nights went on forever and all that mattered was what was going on inside your own head... then maybe you should read a little.  And then pick up your pen and try to write a little. That's my plan anyway.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Boo Hisssssss

Ha!  Be sure your readers will stalk you until you show your new haircut!

Here you are Lorna - a bit blurry and still grey ; )

(Lorna called me out for posting yesterday and then taking the blog straight back down before anyone got a chance to read my tales of woe or laugh at my hair.)

Here is how it went:  I tried a new hairdresser in the local town.  She was evil.  I am still recovering from the brush battering / ear-snipping / hair-pulling experience.  Luckily it was just a cut I asked for.  I cannot imagine what would have happened if colour had been involved.

There was some mis-communication.  I asked for an asymmetric bob (my mistake).  "Fit?" (translation:  "Pardon?")  "Ye mean ye want it squint?"  Um, yes I suppose so, yes...  "But it isnae squint the noo!" (It is not asymmetric at the current time)  That's why I want it cut...?  "Ye sure?" (Can you confirm your instructions?) Mmm hmm.  "Ye're nae fae here are ye?" (You do not originate from this part of the world do you?)  Um... yes, actually...

In the end I just shut my eyes and hoped for the best.  The result is OK but I won't be repeating the experience.  She made me feel like such a snob, and I'm not, honest!  I just... speak English.  OMG I hate living in this place sometimes.

AND it cost me more than my usual city stylist.  AND her scissors were blunt.  AND I was kept waiting half an hour with no apology / explanation / offer of a drink. AND she ostentatiously plonked a cashbox on the counter alongside the card machine to ensure I understood where to put the tip.  TIP?  ARE YOU INSANE?

So, yes, my last attempt at describing the weekend was an uphill struggle.

Squint, you might say.

Not unlike my attempts to find dry logs in the sleet, with the camera hanging from a tree.  But at least I got them indoors before the snow began in earnest.  We have about 6 inches on the ground now.

All weekend we had a fire that gave off more steam than smoke. Hisssssssss.

So I did what I always do in such circumstances.

I made a cake.  Apple Streusel cake, to be precise.

And I abandoned my battle with a paper pattern and settled down with a good book and my knitting.

Life is good again. The End.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Guest at The Yarn Yard

Hi there!

Today you can find me over at The Yarn Yard, talking to Natalie about all things stitchy.

Bring cake!  We'll provide the coffee :D

Friday, January 11, 2013

Learn to Knit, Love to Knit

I promise that I have not stopped thinking about sewing.  I hope to make a start on something at the weekend, but I have a haircut booked for Saturday afternoon, which puts the spanner in the works.  I like to immerse myself in a sewing project until it's done.  Ah well - that's what I get for vanity!

So this is another one for the knitters and the wannabe knitters.

A while back, someone left a comment asking for a recommendation of a "how to knit" book.  At the time, the best I could do was suggest watching you-tube videos, as I didn't know of a really good book.  Well, this week, my position has changed.  Yes, I would still recommend finding a human teacher, either in person (with coffee and cake to hand) or on the internet.  But now I can also point you towards an exciting, inspiring and practical "how to" book - woo hoo!

"Learn to Knit, Love to Knit" was published in September 2012, but I only came across it in the latest issue of Knit Now magazine, where the rather hip and funky stripey raglan sweater pattern pictured below is reprinted alongside an interview with the author, Anna Wilkinson.  Anna does have a Ravelry account but she is not very active on there, which I think is missing a trick in terms of getting herself "known" in the knitting world.  It's certainly my first stop for all things knitterly.

The book is divided into two sections:  the first has lovely clear photographic instructions of How To Knit (English style) and a set of truly inspiring Beginner patterns.  Seriously, even an advanced knitter will be enticed by these projects, especially for quick gift-knitting. The author has a great eye for colour, with sharp citrussy brights set against heathery natural shades and appealing "young" styling (check out that nail polish!).  The photos wouldn't look out of place on a fashion blog, and I think that's important if you are trying to attract a new generation of knitters.

The second section is "Love to Knit" and the stamina-level required for these projects is definitely higher.  They are not necessarily "difficult", but do require a greater level of commitment than a bulky-weight hat or scarf.  And these are the projects which made me REALLY want a copy of this book for myself.  They have that "wow" factor.  They are aspirational projects.  Some would say they are too much of a challenge for new knitters, but I really believe in the power of desire - if you really really WANT that sweater, you are much more likely to stick with the learning process and plug away at the acres of stocking stitch or tricky fair-isle until you complete it.  They put the fire in your belly!

There are 12 cute little vintage-y sweaters and cardi projects in this book, including a cape of swoon-tastic-ness which I will have to knit before the year is out.  The garment patterns only go up to a UK size 16 which will be issue for many, I'm sure.  But beyond the intrinsic gold star quality of the patterns, I also view this book as a springboard to learn and explore so many techniques:  lace, cables, socks, mitts, a hat, colourwork - you get a little taste of so many possibilities that I defy any creative person to come away feeling "meh" about the prospect of knitting.

So, if your New Year's Resolution is to Learn to Knit - get a copy of this book!

No, I was not sponsored to write this post.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

FO: Acorn Mitts, or The Power of the Carrot


There's nothing like a bit of self-bribery to get me motivated.

I finished my Acorn Mitts last weekend, but decided not to blog about them until my prize arrived!  I rewarded myself for this altruistic knit with a beautiful new notebook and some stickers.  Yes, I am a big kid.  You knew this already.

I want to try writing again.  Obviously I have the blog, but I want to try to get back into the habit of playing with the written word.  Pen and paper is my chosen medium.  I spend my day at a computer so the last thing I want to do in my spare time is continue to type.  This notebook was a bit more expensive than I planned to spend on a "reward", but I think it is worth it.  Even its title is inspiring:  "Un Recueil d'Essais".  Why, yes it is in French, for extra romantic intrigue and pose-value :S  It means:  "A Volume of Essays".  You never know, it might even encourage me to improve my language skills.

The stickers were just irresistible.  If you love stationery as much as me, get yourself over to the Magic Notebook shop and be prepared to swoon.  Those little flowers and butterflies are washi tape (free) samples - so pretty!

The Acorns were knitted from two Zauberballs - leftovers from the Transatlantic shawl I made The Boy for Christmas 2011.  The pattern was from a back issue (15) of Knit Now magazine.  See my Ravelry page here.

The Acorns had barely had their ends darned in when I cast on another two altruistic projects!

The first is a super-quick aran-weight headband:  Spirograph.  I thought I had enough Blackstone Tweed leftover from my Pom Pom It hat, but forgot that I had used a lot of yardage to make the actual Pom Pom.  So I had to stop knitting just seven repeats into the pattern.  I have ordered another skein.  This is not exactly stash-busting behaviour, but it seemed a shame to abandon the project or mess it up by trying to do something stripey with other leftovers.  No pictures yet...

My second new project is a pair of Glasgow School Mitts.  These have a deadline attached.  So much for pre-planning!  It is a lovely pattern but the 2.25mm needles and twisted rib are aggravating my back-to-work RSI.  I am trying to pace myself.  I should still have enough time...

I am using Fyberspates Sparkle in Blackcurrant, leftover from my Veyla Mitts project (Christmas 2011).  It is a merino / silk / nylon mix with 2% sterling silver - oooh! It has great stitch definition, is pretty soft, and has added twinkley pizzazz from the silver.  I refuse to consider the possibility that I might not have enough yarn.  It will be fine.  Won't it?

Oh... and this is what I wore to work today:  my latest Airelle with the Mustard cord skirt, ethical-attempt cardigan and the beautiful shawl I received for Christmas.  Yes, this look breaks every single New Year's Resolution:  muddy shoes (not shown), no jacket and fuzzy hair. What can I say?  I think I need to work up to it.  Maybe I need to find a reward scheme for looking smarter at work!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

A Year of Small Indulgences

There is a flurry of New Year activity across the blogs.  Lots of people are starting 2013 by making a regular commitment:  to read a book a week, knit a pair of socks every month, take a photo every day - the list goes on.  I love projects like that!  I am a very goal-centred person and I like having milestones and project plans (...and Gantt Charts and Excel Spreadsheets - what a geek!)

Please ignore crumbs on the tablecloth... Cranberry Orange Loaf since you ask!

I was thinking about what I might want to do, and how it needs to fit in with my other goals: having less clutter, creating permanence.  It mustn't be a gimmick.  It has to be fun.  It has to serve a purpose.

Over the holidays, I went through my collection of Knit Now magazines and made of list of everything I wanted to knit.  It came to 54 patterns.  FIFTY FOUR patterns in 16 issues - that's amazing!  But realistically, I have no immediate use for that many cowls / mitts / socks / scarves / baby jumpers.  So I was thinking that what I could do is to start a stock-pile of hand-made gifts.  How many times a year am I caught out by birthdays / babies / Christmas?

And it has such great potential for stash-busting too!  I can indulge myself in knitting up all the pretty stuff that isn't necessarily "me" but is bound to suit someone sometime.  And as I work my way through the stash, I can reward myself.  So when I knit something altruistic, I am allowed a little treat :)

What sort of treats, Roo?

This is where it gets fun!  I am far too strict with myself and rarely indulge in "girly consumables" like make-up or flowers or funky stationery or posh tea or smelly candles.  My plan is to reward myself with something lovely every time I finish a gift for someone else.  This is a multiple-win scenario:  I get the pleasure of knitting the item, the satisfaction of completing a queued project, the joy of stash-busting, I save myself a future gift-gap panic AND I get a present for myself!  Just a little something that I will use, so it won't add to my burden of stuff.

It is very much in the spirit of Romancing the Ordinary, a book which has brought me such inspiration and comfort in the past, when life has felt difficult.  It's not about going crazy and buying all of the stuff, in a mad supermarket sweep of retail therapy, it is about caring for others and caring for myself at the same time. And I reckon we all need a bit of that.

My first Small Indulgence project is the Acorn Mitts.  I am 3/4 of the way through the second mitt.  Ooh!  Soon I can choose a prize!  What will it be?  A bar of hand-made soap?  A notebook?

This is fun!

Friday, January 04, 2013

Starting with a Jacket...

Toast jacket

Image from Polyvore

Let's just suppose that I bought this jacket in the January sale at Toast (reduced from £175 to £88).
And that when it arrives it fits me perfectly (there's the catch!)

How about building a refreshed grown-up work wardrobe around it?

 Rather surprisingly, when I went through my box of sewing patterns, I was drawn to the idea of making dresses.
A dress under a jacket?  Very work-appropriate, and very unlike my style to date!  But I enjoyed wearing my Robe Sureau with my tailored Tara Starlet jacket at that interview.  I wore them together again for an important meeting a few weeks later. 

From left to right:
1- New Look 6543, a very simple figure-skimming shift (pattern sent to me from Cecilia in New York - thanks Cece!)  In a plain colour I think.
2 - Another Robe Sureau - I have my eye on some Italian viyella-like fabric at Croft Mill for this.
3 - Simplicity 2798, a Project Runway pattern which Jessica has used to great effect.  Lots of possibilities with this one!  I love the pleats on the sleeves and the shape of the yoke.
4 - McCalls 3463, a 1970's smock that is probably best kept for homewear, but we'll see...
5 - Robe Bleuet - I love the look of this dress but it will require careful fitting and fabric choice to avoid looking like an old-fashioned nurse's uniform.

In terms of separates, as well as planning to make a couple more Airelle blouses and a few Renfrew tops, I spotted this blouse pattern in the stash (far right, dated 2003):  New Look 6952.  I really like its simple fly-front, open collar and three-quarter-length sleeves.  That yellow version (View C) has a tiny self-fabric frill at the sleeve and hem edges - cute!  I once had a Zara shirt with that detail... and yes it was in about 2003 now I come to think of it!  Not pictured, but brewing in my brain is a Pattern Runway Pussybow Blouse.  I have the perfect material set aside for this.

I also plan to make the Simplicity 5351 skirt in the centre-right view... but a little bit longer than my mustard cord version (main picture and centre-left).  I rather fancy a magenta wool to pick up the colour of the stripes in the jacket.

And finally, the Betsey Johnson flippy skirt, Butterick 3289, is still calling my name.  I have some orange wool crepe earmarked for this pattern... though it might be diverted to sew the Project Runway dress instead - whichever project grabs me first.  Looking at the pattern again, I might even try out the jacket - that could be an interesting alternative to a knitted cardigan :)

OK, that's a plan. Now I just need to stalk the postman until the jacket arrives. Fingers crossed it fits...!

The January sales are perplexing me.  I thought it might be a good time to buy a few "good pieces" but of course it's all the tat that ends up in the sale.  So despite thinking I could relax a little, I can't bear to drop my ethical standards or my preference for natural fibres and end up buying absolutely nothing.  It might be easier if I could stand to go to a real live shop, but I feel a rising panic at the thought.  So, online scouring is the order of the day.

If nothing else, it provoked me to fill in two surveys from Boden, telling them what I thought of them. 

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

FO: My New Year's Day Airelle

Sigh.  I knew I should have waited til they went out.
I woke early on New Year's Day and decided to start 2013 as I mean to go on:  creatively!

So having dealt with washing, breakfast and the dog, I set to work on my second Airelle blouse.  Having made it already, I knew the only thing I wanted to change was the length of the sleeves.  My pheasant print version is a little bit chilly round the arms, so I added 3 inches and carried on as before.

Pattern:  Blouse Airelle from Deer and Doe, size 36
Fabric: 1970's brushed cotton, found on ebay.  About 1.7 metres? I thought I had enough to make a dress but I was wrong:  it was narrow.  I only had scraps left after I cut out my blouse.  The collar and cuffs are plum babycord, left over from making a cushion cover a few years ago.  Total cost?  About £8.
Label: The usual!  "I am half agony and half hope" (a quote from Persuasion by Jane Austen) from Scrapiana on Etsy.

I started work at about 9.30am and was finished by 5pm, with breaks for fruit, coffee and cheese on toast.
I watched the Keira Knightley Pride and Prejudice out of one eye in the afternoon as I stitched.
I had a lovely day!
Scowl. Sorry -  I don't feel as miserable as I look!
As I noticed before, the neckline is quite wide and stands proud of my collarbone, which on reflection is a bit airy in this climate.  But it feels elegant.  I need to get over my fear of draughts (or move house / change job).  And anyway, I always have a scarf or shawl to hand.
I am smiling in this one - honest!
I like the sleeve at this length, though is is somehow less French (I'm not sure why!)
I have high hopes for this blouse:  I think it could become a workwear staple.  The retro fabric is both warm and quirky.  I like the contrasting texture of the collar and cuffs.
It's freezing out here. Can I go indoors now?
The only issue right now is that it doesn't go with many other garments in my wardrobe, and none of them are appropriate for work.  I like it belted with my shorts, but it looks a bit shapeless worn loose over the gold skirt.  It looks good tucked into a high-waisted skirt, but the print clashes with the ones I already own.

I have some aubergine stretch wool ready to sew another pair of Portfolio Pants, and some orange wool crepe to make a skirt - either of those would be great with it.

So come on, Roo - get a move on!