Tag Archives: sewing

Weekend crafting

I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions (there’s way too much potential for recrimination and self-loathing in setting ambitious goals for myself at a low time of year), but I do know that if I actually ever want to be good at sewing and spinning what I need is regular practice; the reason I am a good knitter these days is not because I’m a natural knitting genius (I wish!) but because I have been knitting pretty much every day for over seven years now, building up muscle memory, learning tricks and techniques and finding better ways of doing things. So, seduced by the completely artificial significance of the calendar change, I have decided to set myself a goal of spending an hour every weekend (unless I’m away from home) spinning and an hour sewing. I’m hoping this will help to make both of them become more of a habit, and that the regular practice will help me to make gradual but steady improvement, though it’s also about giving myself permission to stop after an hour, knowing that I can always pick it up again next weekend, rather than pushing on to complete a project when I’m getting tired and fed up and ending up not enjoying it and convincing myself that I’ll never be any good and not even trying again for ages.

Anyway, I got off to a good start by managing to find time to spin and sew today. Unfortunately, the sewing is a Sekrit Project so I can’t show you any pictures of that, but an hour with my wheel got the second half of a braid of New Zealand Polwarth I bought from Easyknits in the summer spun up.


I was trying to concentrate on drafting a finer yarn than I’ve managed before, which was successful in parts although bits of it are thicker than I’d like, and also on drafting more slowly to get more twist in the yarn, which I definitely managed. It may be overtwisted, but I’ll see how it turns out when I’ve plied it. It’s pretty, anyway, and if it turns out bulky again I have a kind of a Plan involving 10 balls of chunky purple Jaeger yarn I bought years ago without considering that 10 balls of chunky isn’t quite enough for a jumper for me, and a nice simple pattern like Vivido which might look quite nice with a bit of toning/contrasting handspun thrown in…

Christmas crafting

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate it! I hope you are all having a wonderful day and that Father Christmas brought you lots of nice things.

Now that the presents are unwrapped, I can blog the things I’ve been making over the last few weeks. First, another Booklore kindle cover, this time for my mother.

Kindle cover 2

This one is considerably better than the first one, because having read up on yarn dominance I held the pattern yarn in my left hand and the background yarn in my right and the pattern is lovely and clear. T got me Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting for Christmas, and I can definitely see more colourwork in my future.

I decided to make my sister-in-law a cowl, though I’m not sure it’s enough like the ones in the shops which are a lot slouchier this year.


The pattern is A Very Braidy Cowl and the yarn is Fyberspates Scrumptious Aran. I have to say, I did find the 16-stitch cables a challenge (and definitely not to be attempted without a cable needle, which is what I usually do!), but it was a nice quick knit and I think it’s quite pretty.

I then took advantage of T being out on Thursday and Friday to make him some presents. First, some new winter pyjamas.


The pattern is Kwik Sew 3793 again, and the fabric is a cheery brushed cotton from Croft Mill. At one point I thought I was going to have to wrap the fabric up with a promise to turn it into pyjamas before New Year, but in the end I managed to wash it on Thursday evening while T was out, dry it overnight on the airer in my craft room with a ‘Keep Out’ sign on the door, and then make the pyjamas on Friday when he was out again.

As well as the pyjamas, I finally worked out how I could make him some Joy Division oven gloves.

Joy Division ovengloves

In the end, all it took was a plain black double oven glove from John Lewis and some iron-on transfer paper. I did end up slightly melting the inside of one of the flaps with the iron, so popped a square of calico inside the second one, but I think they look the part, and T seems happy with them which is, of course, the main thing🙂

Throwing off the shackles of modesty

This is a more considered response to the Feminist Fashion Bloggers‘ monthly topic of fashion and sexuality than Wednesday’s rather brief post managed to be. Thanks to the commenters on that post for helping me to clarify my thinking, both those who pointed out that if one is well-endowed it’s almost impossible to avoid showing at least some cleavage unless one only wears high-necked tops (which are quite hard to find, certainly in non-casual styles) and the person who said that she thought any amount of cleavage was totally inappropriate for the office because it would be distracting to male colleagues, which did give me pause for thought (although if that commenter is reading I would like to make it clear that it didn’t take me a couple of days to approve your comment because I disagreed with you, it ended up in spam by mistake).

I have a lot of problems with the term ‘modesty’ when applied to dress; it comes with a lot of religious and cultural baggage about how women should ensure they don’t lead men into temptation by dressing provocatively which I fundamentally disagree with. Men are adults, and they should be responsible for controlling their own impulses just as much as women are responsible for controlling theirs. (Franca has a couple of interesting posts on the subject, if anyone wants to read more.) And if asked, I would have vehemently denied that my preference for tops with sleeves, moderately high necklines, and never going bare-legged when wearing skirts above the knee had nothing to do with that kind of residual Victorian-values attitude. I’d have said it was just personal preference, and maybe partly to do with not wanting to be chilly (there is a certain amount of truth to that, although in fact I am someone who feels the heat more than the cold; but for the last few years I did work in an incredibly cold building).

The trouble with the ‘personal preference’ argument is that none of us exist in a vacuum. Yes, of course in a perfect world we could all make completely free choices, but as it it we’re influenced by a whole lot of cultural baggage we may not even be aware of. And actually, deep down, I know that while I’m happy with my figure, I still haven’t completely made my peace with the actual physical nature of my body; the blotches and visible veins and stubble on my legs, the pudginess of my upper arms, and, particularly, the rather generous proportions of my bust. I’ve never been comfortable with my breasts. I developed very early, and was wearing a B-cup bra in my last year of junior school; a succession of hormonal contraceptives seems to have caused them to keep growing until I’m now wearing a GG and determined never to change pill brands again. And big breasts are problematic in our society, because breasts are so sexualised (I live in the land of the Page 3 girl, and if I was the kind of person to seek explanations for my current issues in my childhood I might wonder just what effect the old copies of the Sun we had to protect the desks in my junior school when we were painting had on my developing psyche), and it’s not easy for me to accept them as just an ordinary part of me. Instead,they seem to symbolise an overt sexuality which really, really isn’t me; I’m quite a private person and would prefer to keep the sexual aspects of myself between me and my other half.

When working through the tangle of my own mind it often helps to try to think of how it would seem to me if I was another person. Do I think that other large-breasted women at work are dressing too sexily and look unprofessional when they show a small amount of cleavage? No, of course I don’t. So would they think that of me if I did? Almost certainly not. Should I allow a culture which views women as primarily sex objects affect my relationship with my own body to the extent that I feel I have to make extreme efforts to cover myself up if I don’t want to be viewed as a sex object rather than an accountant, a manager, a friend, a colleague, a knitter, and above all a person? No I bloody well shouldn’t.

Obviously, I’m not going to stop wearing shawls, because I love my shawls. But it it’s too warm to have a shawl on I’m not going to fret. And I’m damn well going to make a Sorbetto and hopefully wear it to work if the weather is hot, even if it is – shock horror! – sleeveless.

My first sewing project

I think I probably need to make sure I use my sewing machine regularly until I really know my way around it and stop feeling intimidated by it. If I don’t I suspect I will become so terrified I’ll just never use it at all, and that would be a real shame.

I’m not feeling up to anything terribly complicated as yet, but this tutorial seemed pretty easy to follow, and I did think that a little case for my phone, iPod and MiFi would be a useful thing to have.

Organiser 2

I used a remnant of printed fabric given to me by a fellow knitter last summer, and some plain bright pink fabric and interfacing I bought ages ago intending to use them to make a waistband for a dress I thought I might turn into a skirt (I have since given up on that idea and taken the dress to a clothes swap, so the fabric and interfacing were going spare).

Organiser 1

Mine is smaller than the one in the tutorial, because I didn’t want it to fit as many things in as the one shown there. Mine just has three pockets.

Organiser - open

And I sewed a ribbon to the outside to tie it closed.

Organiser - back view

It’s not perfect. You can see from the last photo that I didn’t quite manage to cut the fabric squarely and the lining pokes out on that side, and the seams aren’t quite as neat as they could be. Still, I don’t think it’s too bad for a first attempt.

Now, what to make next?

Good things come in pretty packages

Look what I’ve got!


One day (hopefully one day fairly soon!) this will become a lovely summer skirt. I’m very excited, although also a bit nervous. I might start by making something a bit more straightforward; I was thinking this morning that it would be nice to have something to keep my phone and iPod and MiFi together if I want to use a bag which doesn’t have internal pockets, and that it would be relatively easy to sew something along those lines (something like this, in fact). I might try that this weekend.

(No outfit photo today, because I was wearing exactly the same as in this post.)

My new toy

I have a new toy!

Sewing machine!

It’s a Janome DM1018; it’s pretty much exactly what I was looking for. It seems like a nice basic machine, has 13 stitch options, 4-step buttonholes and comes with buttonhole, zip and blind hem feet, and it only cost me £99.

I bought it from The Husqvarna Studio in Bath. My husband had arranged to spend the afternoon watching the rugby in a pub with friends, and I thought I’d go along for the afternoon and wander round the shops. When I came across the Husqvarna Studio I thought I’d pop in and ask about machines; I wasn’t actually expecting to buy one there but the machine was such a good price and so exactly what I wanted that I couldn’t resist. I was incredibly impressed by the level of service; the man who showed me the machine (who I think was the shop’s owner) was very helpful and showed me how to do straight and zig-zag stitches, buttonholes and fancy stitching, which will be very useful when I come to use it myself. And then once I’d bought the machine, when I said that I was parked on the other side of town and didn’t really want to bring my car across (not knowing Bath well I was worried that I might get lost in the one-way system and never find my way to the shop, or indeed back from there to the parking space near T’s friend’s house) he asked a lad who worked for him to carry the machine most of the way for me. It was only a ten-minute walk, but in its box the machine was rather awkward to carry, so I was very grateful for that help. I’d definitely recommend the shop to anyone within easy reach of Bath who’s looking for a machine.

Now I just have to decide what to use it for! What I really want to do is to make clothes; I think I may buy a Clothkits skirt kit to get myself started. But which one?

Brown and teal

For some reason, lots of people seem to have been wearing brown and teal today. Perhaps there’s something in the air.


Cardigan – Hey Teach!
Necklace – fairtrade shop
Top – clothes swap
Skirt – Boden via clothes swap
Tights – M&S
Boots – Dune

In other craft- and clothing-related news, I have a bit more money than I was expecting to this month and am very seriously considering buying a sewing machine and a Clothkits skirt kit to go with it. Yes, I know that when I borrowed Triskellian‘s sewing machine last summer I ended up making one project bag and sewing braid round the neckline of a t-shirt and nothing else, but I do love the idea of being able to make pretty skirts (and maybe even one day managing to make a pair of trousers that actually fit both my hips and my waist). I’ve had some fantastic advice from people on Twitter after mentioning the idea this morning, in particular from Sarah from The Bothered Owl but also from others, and I think I may have to pop into my local sewing machine shop (despite living in a village/suburb with not much in the way of a shopping centre I have a local sewing machine shop, although all I have ever bought there in the five and a half years we’ve lived here is two wheels of pins when I ran out while blocking my Scroll Lace) at the weekend and ask their advice.

Does anyone else have any handy tips about sewing machines?