I have been in something of a slump since I last posted here. I have been knitting; I have even managed to start and finish two projects, but I haven’t been feeling particularly enthusiastic about it.

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Louise Zass-Bangham’s Knit Me in Artisan Yarns laceweight linen. I didn’t much enjoy knitting this; the linen yarn is quite hard and string-like and wasn’t much fun to knit, and to add insult to injury the shawl ended up approximately eight feet long and really really skinny and is therefore not really wearable. When I had the same problem with my Brickless I ended up unravelling it so I could use the yarn for something else, but I have no desire to knit with the line yarn ever again, so it’ll have to stay as it is. It looks OK with the ends wrapped around my neck twice, though I find it awkward to wear scarves that way so I suspect it won’t see much wear.

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More happily, I knitted a cardigan in 19 days. The pattern is Quick Sand by Heidi Kirrmaier, and I used the last of my stash of Rowan Cotton Jeans which is a lovely yarn for summer cardigans, or at least the kind of fairly substantial cardigans that the British summer necessitates (I am wearing it today, along with a pair of handknitted socks, because it really isn’t warm). I love the simple, swingy shape; it’s definitely my new favourite cardigan.

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I also went to a Hat design workshop with Woolly Wormhead at Purlescence and designed and knitted a pixie hat.

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So it’s been quite a productive slump, at any rate!

A dress for someone else’s life

Last weekend I set out to make myself a Myrtle dress, my patterns having finally arrived (thanks to Susan at Sewbox for putting replacements in the post straight away and checking they’d arrived; no thanks to the Post Office for losing the first set). I traced off the pattern, grading from a M at the shoulders to a L at the bust and XL at the waist and hips, cut out my fabric (some purple viscose jersey I bought from Tissu Fabrics ages ago), found my ballpoint and twin needles and started sewing. I struggled a bit with the suggested twin-needle hemming technique on the back bodice but by the time I’d done both armholes and the neckline I’d more or less cracked it, and by the end of the afternoon I had something that looked like a dress.

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Unfortunately, while it may have looked like a dress, it didn’t function like a dress. I’d managed to hold the bodice lining together with the back when I was attaching the skirt, rather than together with the outside of the bodice, the result of which was that there was no gap at the waist for my body to go through. So I spent over an hour yesterday afternoon unpicking the stitching at the wait and tried again, and this time I actually managed to make a dress.

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I’m really pleased with the fit; looking at the photos, I should probably have done a full bust adjustment, but I don’t think it’s too bad as it is. And if the hem is horribly bodged (which it is; I think possibly I should have stretched the fabric as I was sewing it to keep the fold flat, because it kept going a bit wonky and twisted), who looks at the hems of people’s dresses anyway? And it even looks OK from the back.

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The only trouble is that somehow this isn’t the dress I’d envisaged. I’d thought there would be a bit more coverage on the shoulders, that the draped neckline wouldn’t drape down so low, and that the skirt would cover my knees (I did cut out the version which said it should be just below knee-length, so I’m not sure what happened there – it’s not as if I’m particularly tall). In other words, I thought I was making a dress that I could wear to work, but what I appear to have made is a party frock. When I never go to parties.

Shiver my timbers!

After last weekend’s dressmaking/wardrobe musings I ordered copies of the Colette Myrtle and Moneta patterns and was planning on spending this weekend making a Myrtle out of some vibrant purple viscose jersey I bought ages ago. However, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley, and if the postal service is involved it’s generally a dead cert; even though I ordered the patterns on Monday and they were despatched on Tuesday they haven’t arrived yet, so given that I’d washed the Laura Ashley pirate fabric I decided that I might as well do something with that instead.

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Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be wearing this one for work…

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I used the Colette Ginger pattern; I love the shape of the skirt and I think it probably suits me better than the McCalls A-line which is the other skirt pattern I’ve made, although the front seam does pose some problems when working with a printed fabric.

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It sewed up surprisingly quickly (I think this is probably a sign that I’ve got better at sewing) and it was good to have more practice at inserting an invisible zip, which I’d only done once before.

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I was rather annoyed to discover as I was pressing the back seam that I’d somehow managed to get a small v-shaped tear in the fabric (I suspect I caught it with my scissors); hence the rather visible patch. But I don’t think it matters that much, given that this is very definitely a casual (and extremely silly) skirt anyway…

New skirt

A couple of years ago I wandered into Darn It & Stitch at lunchtime on my birthday and, because it was my birthday, decided to treat myself to a metre and a half of bright yellow cotton with a red and green apple print to make into a skirt. A couple of weeks ago, I finally got round to actually making it into a skirt.

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I used the basic McCall’s A-line skirt pattern I’ve used several times before, and added a lining in plain yellow polycotton because I find that linings add a bit of structure to skirts in lightweight fabrics and stop them looking so wrinkly after being worn for a while. I also find that, possibly because I don’t have a particularly well-defined waist, on the unlined versions I’ve made the facings tend to wrinkle up around the waist, and the linings help them to stay flat.

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I think that if I ever make an unlined version of the skirt again I might actually sew the bottom of the facing to the skirt all the way round, to create a kind of yoke.

I didn’t make any effort to match the pattern at the back seam, which maybe I should have done. Still, I think it’s my best zip insertion so far*.

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I just hope that the weather cheers up enough that I actually get an opportunity to wear it soon. I’ve been feeling very meh about clothes recently, but as I keep browsing shops websites failing to find anything that I really fancy wearing I think this is just the result of having one of those wet grey Mays when most of the time it could still be March and being utterly fed up of (a) tights and (b) the small subset of my wardrobe’s contents which can be worn with tights but won’t look utterly ridiculous if the sun actually comes out and the temperature gets up to 20C.

I’ve been thinking about dressmaking recently, and what kind of things I’d actually like to make. Cotton skirts in fun prints are all very well, but can only be worn for a few months every year, and I want to make things that actually get a fair amount of wear. I’d like to find a slightly heavier fabric that will make decent mid-season skirts; I do have some wool-mix tweed to make a winter skirt at some point, but haven’t found anything yet that seems to be good for in-between weather but still office-appropriate. And I still want to make dresses, but given that all the dresses I wear regularly are jersey it would probably make more sense to concentrate on learning to make jersey dresses – I have the patterns for Tiramisu and Audrey and keep considering buying Moneta – rather than making dresses out of woven fabrics which are always going to be difficult to fit and never as comfortable as jersey. However, I think my next attempt is going to be this dress in this Treasure Island fabric. It certainly won’t be work-appropriate, even if I get it to fit, but I want to prove to myself that sewing can be fun, and how could a dress made from Treasure Island fabric be anything other than fun?

(Also, because everyone is mentioning the shoes, they are from Office, and I bought them a couple of years ago in a dreary wet spring because they were fun. They’re also not really very comfortable, so I don’t wear them much, but they are definitely fun.)

*Even though this is a standard zip, when I was getting the zip foot out of the bag of sewing machine accessories I found myself idly wondering where my invisible zip foot was, and then turning out the drawer of my sewing desk in a vain attempt to locate the invisible zip foot. When I put the standard zip foot away I discovered the invisible zip foot, at least temporarily visible, sitting in the bag of accessories where it had (presumably) been all along. Clearly my invisible zip foot wants to give me every opportunity possible to make the feeble “oh dear, I can’t find my invisible zip foot” jokes I persist in making despite there being no evidence at all that anyone has ever found them at all amusing.

FO: Olympic Forest National Park

My A-Z of shawls ended up having something of a hiatus after I finished my Nuvem. I did start knitting Boo Knits’ Out of Darkness as my O, but ended up chucking it in the bin as the yarn I was using turned out to have quite bad moth damage. I was sorry about the waste of time, but I wasn’t actually too sad not to have the shawl, as I’d had some doubts about whether delicate beaded lace was really my kind of thing. I don’t do fancy outfits; my shawls are part of my normal everyday wardrobe and I tend to opt for simpler patterns which make more use of colour and texture, rather than complicated lace. It took me a while to find an alternative, but after spending quite a lot of time searching Ravelry I eventually came across Very Busy Monkey’s Olympic National Park and fell in love with the tree and leaf design.

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Obviously, such a leafy shawl needed to be green, and I picked an almost-solid merino/silk from Skein Queen which had been sitting in my stash for several years.

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It turned out to be a really quick knit, taking me less than a month to finish despite the pattern requiring enough counting that I only tended to work on it at the weekends. Watching the branches and leaves develop was fascinating and made me want to keep on knitting to see the pattern emerge. It’s not a large shawl, but the shallow shape makes it work nicely as a scarf, while the silk content of the yarn makes it feel lighter and more summery than a shawl in 100% wool would do.

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Fashion On The Ration

I was talking to some of the knitters from the Archers Listeners group on Ravelry recently, and someone mentioned our trip to the theatre four years ago and suggested that we should have another get-together. I had just seen an article about the Fashion on the Ration exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, and thought it sounded interesting, and so a plan was hatched and yesterday morning I was up bright and early to catch the coach to London.

In the end there were five of us who managed to make it along. We met at iKnit where we browsed yarn, chatted and knitted, while getting to know the owner Gerard’s two chihuahuas.

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We then headed off to the Imperial War Musuem, where we had time to look at the display about holders of the Victoria Cross and George Cross before going in to the exhibition.

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There were photographs and paintings, like this one by Laura Knight, showing women during the Second World War, but we were most interested in the actual clothes. There were plenty of uniforms, some examples of making do and mending (including a fabulous dress made of patchwork hexagons and a dressing gown from silk maps) and a few knitted things.

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The main focus, though, seemed to be a big display of “Utility” clothes, which included some lovely dresses.

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We were all very much in favour of the principles behind the Utility scheme. I hadn’t realised before that it wasn’t just about ensuring that rationing standards were adhered to, but also about combating the problem of poorly-made clothes which didn’t last, in an environment where replacing worn-out things was problematic. So very different from today’s disposable fashion!

There were also clothes designed to reinforce wartime propaganda, such as this dress which combines an Air Force wings motif with a quote from Churchill’s speech on the Battle of Britain:

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It was a really interesting exhibition, and about the right scale, too; it took us about 40 minutes to wander through and look at all the exhibits, which made it seem worth the £10 entry charge but not so big as to be overwhelming. And some of the clothes were lovely. If you’re interested in clothes and can get to London while the exhibition is on I definitely recommend it.

Just call me Pollyanna

The theme for this final week of the Love Your Blog challenge is “Gratitude”.

A Playful Day

I’m immensely grateful for everything crafting has done for me over the last ten years or so. Without knitting to calm me down and remind me that even when the world seems darkest there is still beauty there, I’m not sure I’d still be here.

I’m grateful to be a knitter in the age of Ravelry and internet shopping which make it so easy so access patterns and yarn.

I’m grateful to all the dyers and designers whose work enables me to create beautiful things. I’m grateful that I live in a country whose climate suits knitwear, and that I have a job that pays me enough to have plenty of money left over for yarn after I’ve covered essentials.

I’m grateful to be able to take public transport to work, so I have more knitting time.

I’m grateful to Bethan for showing me her copy of Stitch’n’Bitch back in 2005 and starting me on this journey, and to all the other friends I’ve met along the way, who’ve made me feel that I’ve finally found a place where I am welcomed and accepted and loved. And I’m grateful for the way that support and acceptance from others has helped me come to accept myself more, too, and to develop confidence in other areas of my life.

I’m grateful to Kate, for dreaming up this interesting, thought-provoking challenge which has really helped to revive my interest in blogging.

I’m grateful to the people who read this blog and interact with me, either here or on Twitter and Facebook, who make me feel that it’s worth while to keep making the effort to create with words as well as with yarn.

And I’m grateful to the sheep, without whom none of this would have been possible. Thank ewe!


(To read more posts on today’s theme, go here.)