Friday, April 30, 2010

Myeloma and Hope

Not a post about FL, but about a new life over in the USA.

Little Ruby Carroll Brabbs, born just days after her dad's stem cell transplant.

Is it just me, or is she a symbol of hope for the future? I think so.

I promise not to get all sentimental about babies and what might have been. We will toast little Ruby tonight, and her brave crazy parents!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

More Vintage Inspirations

In the pursuit of a dress pattern for a wedding in August, I have become totally overwhelmed by the choices available to me. Life was so much simpler before I discovered Etsy!

And today, I added to my confusion by clicking on a link to Evadress .

All of the images in the post are taken from vintage or reproduction patterns available from that site.

Wow! I have never seen such a well-edited collection of stunning patterns!

I could reinvent myself a hundred times!

This is me on my way for cocktails in New York. By private jet.

Here I am as a socialite Land Girl on my (afternoon) tea break. Just don't ask me to do any work.

Or how about this? I am an interior designer who specialises in Picture Palaces.

And this is a picture of me and my ladies getting ready to attend a soiree in Bloomsbury with the Bells and the Woolfs.
Talk to the hand...
And in answer to your question: no, I haven't chosen a pattern yet.
I just need to look around a little more and sew a blouse or two while I think.

Monday, April 26, 2010

New Projects

Birthday socks:

I have started knitting FL's birthday socks.
This is the Nexus pattern from a back issue of The Knitter magazine. It was the very devil to get started because the whole pattern is written out long-hand, with no charts to refer to.
I hadn't realised how much I prefer charts until it came to keeping track of the first few rows of these socks! I had to draw my own "map" of each needle to make sense of it.

This is YarnYard Croft yarn, rescued from the doomed Zur Lerhos'n socks. I am using bigger needles than before, and the resulting sock has a certain similarity to the hideously complicated Zur etc. without being too tight or full of mistakes (so far, touch wood!).


Neither FL nor my daughter likes the fabric I bought to make the dress for August. FL says it looks like curtains, and my daughter just screwed her nose up and said "Err... no." So I am having a crisis of confidence.

I might make a blouse next while I think about it. Gingham? That's not too controversial I hope!


Having sworn I would not devote an(other) entire summer to the defeat of weeds in the Steadings herb garden, I spent most of Sunday chipping away at the rock-hard soil trying to dig up the ratgrass and thistles.

After FL promised to do some weeding, I decided I would have to make an effort. I cannot have him doing his back in trying to "help" me. Unexpectedly, I took his advice and used his favourite tool, which is apparently called a culti-weeder. (Mine is a cheaper version with a fixed handle.) It has the long handle of a hoe, with a three-pronged hooked forklet at the business end. If you whack it down hard enough, the prongs go into the soil, grip the roots of the weed, and then allow you to twist and pull it out without breaking your back or bending to pick up the weed. It took me a while to get used to the initial impact required, but I managed to cover 3 metres of garden in 3 hours. Impressive? Nope. But it is faster than using a fork and trowel. And I can still stand upright today. Bargain!

Early rising:
This weekend also marked the start of my son's first ever job. He is working every Saturday from 5am to 3pm for rather less than the minimum wage... but he isn't 18 yet, so this is legal. The idea is that he will gain work experience and earn some money towards his further education. If he does OK he will be offered more shifts after he leaves school... in about 5 weeks - eek!

Someone has to take him to work as we are nowhere near public transport and it is too far to cycle, so we set the alarm for 4am and FL took the first shift. Good experience for The Boy, but a real wake up call for all of us!

In General:
I was all over the place this weekend. FL and I are joking about him "feeling liverish", but it isn't funny.
Several times, I just had to wake the dog and go for a brisk walk across the fields to let off some steam. FL golfed 18 holes for the first time in months and months. So at least we will both get fitter as we vent our frustrations!
FL was at a funeral today. One of his golf buddies died unexpectedly on Friday. He was 13 years younger than FL, and apparently "well", which just goes to show... something. Seize that carp.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Wedding in August

Well, would you believe it - FL and I have been invited to a wedding in August! It is a couple of my work colleagues who are getting hitched, and I am immensely flattered to have received an invitation to the Big Bash and also to the Hen Do - eek!

But of course the first thing to cross my mind was - OMG what will I WEAR?!

It will be a rather upmarket occasion. I strongly suspect that FL will back out on the grounds of (social) exhaustion, but I am intrigued by the prospect.

The Hen Do involves a Spa Day and then dinner at the poshest place in town.
OK, I admit I am a bit freaked by the prospect of floating around a Spa with work colleagues. But at least they aren't the sort who are perma-tanned.

And it certainly won't be cheap. Just attending the Hen Do will cost about the same as FL and I's wedding! Gulp.

So I will definitely be making my own outfit to save a few £s where I can. A dress.. and a jacket? Oh crikey, yes, I expect I will need a top layer too. Oh my - and something different to wear to the Hen Do!

Pass the smelling salts, I need to sit down.

It is a definite opportunity to sew a swishy 1950's-style dress!

I really like this dress at Toast, or how about this beauty at Able Grable? But both are out of my budget (unless I avoid the Hen Do!). So I am on the hunt for the perfect pattern to make my own.

All of these were "recently listed" at Etsy, so there is no shortage of choice, though there seems to be rapid turnover, as two patterns I had shortlisted were sold in a couple of days. I want a twirly shape, but not gathered or pleated at the waist, so probably a circle skirt, cut on the bias.
Short sleeves rather than sleeveless. I found one pattern with a "button-on cape" which attached to the shoulder straps!

I was so glad to see that Croft Mill had something suitable in stock! And shocked that it sold out so quickly - I hope my order made it to the head of the queue! And that I ordered enough!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dotty Inside

Thanks for all your positive comments on my Little Black Jacket!

Lorna and Paula both kindly pointed out that I was wearing my oh-so-stylish lime green wellies in those pictures. Blimey, you are eagle-eyed, the pair of you! That's because I wear them with everything, everyday - I live on a farm, and we have lots of mud! I blame the photographer, who was supposed to shoot from the waist up! Tsk! But no, I don't actually wear them to work unless there is a foot of snow on the ground. So... quite often ;)

Anyway... here, for the record, is What I Wore To Work Today.

  • Home-made jacket

  • Black cotton polo-neck jumper with 3/4 length sleeves (InWear, reduced at BusinessWardrobe dot com)

  • TopShop 50's-style skirt with attached net underskirt (via Ebay 4 years ago) It's too long because it is 2 sizes too big - I must fix that!
And here is the dotty lining, because as Yarnwalks pointed out, I hadn't shown you that properly either.

See? I do tidy myself up occasionally!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

FO: Little Black Jacket

My dotty buttons arrived really quickly, so tonight's dinner was postponed while I made the buttonholes!

It proved to be a real challenge to photograph a black jacket in the evening sunlight.

And I ought to have slapped on some lipstick and smarter trousers. Ah well!

Jacket R from "Sweet Black", a Japanese pattern book, ISBN 978-4-309-280-417 which I bought from Pomadour's shop at Ebay - she is also on Etsy.
I made size M, the second size.
The black sanded cotton fabric is from Croft Mill, with dotty polyester lining from Favourite Fabrics (Ebay) and dotty buttons from... Ebay.
The pattern was well-drafted and fits me well without any alterations.
The instructions were in Japanese but the diagrams were clear enough to follow.
I decided to attach the sleeve linings at the cuff by machine and then pull them through to the inside, before hand-stitching the rest of the lining in place.
Most of the seams are double-row-top-stitched, which got through an awful lot of thread!
Would I use the pattern again? Definitely. It was straightforward sewing and a simple classic style which will go with most things

Verdict? I am very happy with it. It will be a good wardrobe staple for work, with that dotty subversive twist to keep me smiling on the inside!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

FO: Chouwa Oriental Poppy Socks

When I lived in London, my back garden mostly comprised municipal grey concrete paving stones, with a narrow border of shrubbery where I used to grow rampant courgettes and butternut squash, which kept escaping through the fence to scoot across next-door's manicured lawn.

Ah those net curtains did twitch, indeed!

But right in the middle of the desolate paved area, the previous owner had lifted the slabs to make a hole for his whirly washing-dryer, which he took with him when he moved out, leaving a metre square of mud.
After an exciting experiment with an 8-foot high artichoke, which looked like something from Little Shop of Horrors, I made my neighbours' day by filling the hole with Oriental Poppies, which self-seeded to spread to every garden for miles around. Consider it to be a generous gardener's gift. I loved those flowers! They were so incredibly bright red with searingly blue-black centres. Very Georgia O'Keeffe. I wish I had a photo.

Sadly, they refuse to grow in my windswept Scottish plot.

So when I saw this yarn, I had to have it, for nostalgia's sake. My daughter saw the "Gothic Yarns" label and she had to have it. So that was her birthday sock choice sorted! But this is my third attempt at finding a pattern which works with the yarn. I'm a year late with these socks!

I tried Wendy's Diagonal lace sock but it didn't look right. Then I tried the Staccato Sock, and it was better, but the combination of the stitch pattern and 2mm needles was making a terribly inelastic fabric.

So here, at last, is Chouwa from "Knitted Socks East and West". Much better! There's the wavy feather and fan up the leg, self-striping rather nicely, and then a plain foot to let the colours sing their hearts out. 2.5mm needles allowed the fabric to "breathe".
I have managed to knit these without my daughter seeing, so they will be a surprise birthday present in June - woo hoo!
Chouwa from Knitted Socks East and West by Judy Sumner

"Gothic Yarns" sock yarn: 75% wool, 25% polyamide. It's a thin, not-very-soft yarn. Lots of yardage (473 m in one skein, I believe) so I had a fair bit leftover despite these being quite long socks for a UK size 5 foot. I chose it for the colour, so I won't complain.
The Chouwa pattern is well-written and straightforward: top-down, with a roll-over cuff, a feather and fan lace interspersed with simple cables (which don't really show up in this colourway), normal heel-flap construction and a plain stocking stitch foot and simple flat toe.

Would I knit this pattern again? Yes, I will keep it in mind to tame a contrast-y narrowly-self-striping yarn, even though I know a plainer colour would show off the cables.

Would I use this yarn again? Um. Probably not, if I didn't already have another skein in the stash, again chosen for its colour, which is "black overdyed purple", another daughter-friendly shade, especially with its name "Twilight"!
Verdict? A very quick and satisfying knit. And I still like the colour.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spot my buttons!

Thank you all for your words of wisdom about buttons!
Yes, the buttons will make or break the whole project and therefore I should not just use something I have in the button box that isn't quite right.
I agree with the majority who say the coconut ones with writing are the most "me", but I have a lurking worry they are slightly too casual for this jacket. I was planning on using them with organic denim to make a tunic / apron dress... and I think that I ought to hold true to that idea.
So I returned to the Bedecked buttons, which several people agreed were the best, but that the postage was way out of order. Hmmm, I thought, I wonder if I can get something similar on Eee baaay...? So I did a search: "black stitch button" and guess what? The Bedecked ones are there... but in a smaller size: 18mm. 35 buttons for £7.99! The same I would have paid for 2 buttons including p and p at Bedecked! But 18mm is too small for a jacket. And I don't need 35 of them! I found the right size in white with black stitching, but not black with white - so close!
So then I searched "Black white buttons" - woo hoo! Spots before my eyes! Segwyne suggested covering buttons with the lining material and I liked the way that would look, but was worried about the fabric being too delicate to survive daily wear and tear. So when I found these, it was an instant decision! They are 30mm in diameter, so big and funky - and two buttons cost me £1.40!
So although I appear to be ignoring your advice, I am actually learning from it - don't just settle for something that's not quite right - it's worth holding out for The One! And ladies, that goes for relationships too!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Almost FO: Little Black Jacket

Please accept a Banana, Honey and Pecan Cupcake.

This is to aid the decision-making process.

I have finished my Little Black Jacket except for the buttons and buttonholes.

And I need some help in deciding which direction to take.

This jacket will be worn to work with khaki Bella trousers, airforce blue Bella trousers and anything else that needs smartening up.

Here is a very scruffy photo of the jacket without buttons... and the upstairs sink. Oops.

Basically, it is a single-breasted, shortish jacket made out of black sanded cotton twill, with lots of twin-rowed top-stitching and rounded patch pockets.

At the moment it doesn't have shoulder-pads, but I think I might have to add them to give more structure.

It is lined with black and white polka dot polyester.

And here are my button options, top to button:

  • Black plastic with a slight texture - shanked
  • Brass flowers (vintage) with shell inserts - shanked

Coconut shell with painted black letters - 2 holes

Red plastic as used on my winter coat - 4 holes

Or should I suck it up and order these from Bedecked? (exhorbitant p and p!)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Not Long Weekend

I have really suffered for having a week off. I was still working on the sofa at 11pm last night to try to meet a deadline. I did meet it, but my boss says she would have done the report differently, so now I have to re-write it. The paper is now "to follow" (the most dreadful sin in these parts) and I therefore know what I am doing on Monday, which ought to have been a local bank holiday for me. Sigh.

This is my long-winded excuse for having nothing to show you.

Since I spent last Saturday painting the hall instead of finishing my jacket, this weekend I hope to do just that. I "only" need to make the lining, hem it and make buttonholes. I am unsure about the buttons though. I found some lovely ones but the p&p was £5... on 2 x 95p buttons! So I didn't buy them. Grrr.

I turned the heel on the second Chouwa sock days ago but haven't done any knitting since.

That's why I am grumpy today. It's not the over-work, it's the lack of knitting.

Pictures of knitting and sewing will follow!

FL has had a reasonable week - he managed to golf 8 holes yesterday. It wiped him out though. He keeps having "electric shocks" in his heart, which is a bit scary for him and me. But apparently shrug-worthy if you are a doctor.

Gotta go. Work to do.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Week Ends

So, there we have it, the weekend already. FL is SO much better than he was a week ago today! We definitely made the right decision to stay at home.

Gratuitous photo of the view of Bennachie from the boundary of the farm.

Today we went out for lunch to my favourite restaurant (good idea Roo!) and we both ate well.
Oh dear , FL - did I not mention that the retaurant is next door to The Wool Shed? Heh heh heh!

So naturally I had to support my local yarn store. This is 1000m of shetland 4-ply for Audrey-in-Unst. I know, I know, I said that I was going to knit from stash this year, but in my defence I sold a single skein of sock yarn via Ravelry for almost the same £s as I paid for all of this! So strictly speaking I haven't actually added to the stash at all...?

I finished the first Chouwa sock and have cast on for the second. I won't finish the pair before my daughter gets home (the kids are... wait for it... in Marrakesh with their father! Pah - he never took ME to Marrakesh!) but it will give me some soothing knitting for the Waiting Room next week.
Tomorrow I must crack on with my jacket-sewing. And maybe, possibly, paint the hallway. Or not. Sod it, I am on holiday!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Sewing a Little Black Jacket

Having the luxury of a week at home, with time to sew, I decided to make a Little Black Jacket.

The pattern was easily decided upon, as I already had the Japanese pattern book "Sweet Black" (ISBN978-4-309-28041-7) and there was the quintessential simple black jacket, style "r".

The fabric is my third length from Croft Mill: 2 metres of black sanded cotton, intended for trousers. But my recent wardrobe crisis persuaded me to divert this towards a jacket.

It's just as well I had a little extra fabric, because the diagram I thought was a dart, was actually a pleat on the paper pattern itself, to shape the bust without the bulk of folded cloth. Luckily I spotted my error in time and was able to re-cut the fronts.

It has taken me four days of non-hurried sewing to get this far. The lapels took a whole afternoon of puzzling, pinning and pressing. But I think it's going well. I still need to make the sleeves, lining and buttonholes.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Mid-week Catch-Up

So here we are, halfway through my holiday week. At first it rained, and I knitted. I "scunnered myself" (as my mother would say) knitting baby hats.
This is (l to r) Tinker from Twisted Woolly etc. but with a three-point bind off instead of the two-points of the original. It looked too much like a lumpy paper bag. I had a single 50g ball of Debbie Bliss Aran Tweed in the stash which did the job nicely.
The second hat is Brownie (also a Twisted...) in Cascade 220, also from the stash. It is looking quite tall, so I didn't knit the earflaps. I plan to knit this one again in red, with flaps, in a larger size.

FL hasn't had any more funny turns (and yes, Alison, I will ask his doctor about them when we are back at the hospital next week) but has been very tired. I think we did the right thing to stay at home.
Of course, he is making the most of having me at home to tackle the To Do List.
So here we have the Cutting of the First Sod of the Anniversary Orchard.
What you don't see here is me digging up molehills, fetching buckets of water, and scraping away at the hole with a trowel after he broke the turf and retired to his Director's chair.
We managed to plant two cherry trees in an hour and a half. An apple, a pear and another cherry to go... another day!
Here is the Supervisor.
And his dog.
I have been sewing. A very ordinary black jacket to wear to work. I will do a separate post about that, I think.
And we have been "eating from stash"! We had a lovely meal of home-flown pheasant with roast butternut squash and red onions (recipe from The Kitchen Revolution). Later in the week it will be haunch of venison, also from the farm.
We might go out for a meal, but FL's exhaustion always seem to hit at about 7pm, which makes an evening out a bit tricky.
I have cast on another pair of socks. This is my third attempt at using this yarn, which is such a busy dye-job that it suffocates most stitch patterns. This is Gothic Yarns sock wool in "Poppy". It's a very thin and not very soft base, but my daughter likes the colour and these will be her birthday socks.
I am using the Chouwa pattern from "Knitted Socks East and West" which has a feather-and-fan interspersed by simple cables. The yarn is self-striping quite nicely up the feather/fan sections but you can't really see the cables. But frankly I am sick of trying to find the perfect match for this colourway. It will be fine.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Twisted Woolly Toppers

Three hot favourites from "Twisted Woolly Toppers", which is Woolly Wormhead's new hat book.

It is a slender volume but contains ten patterns, all of which I would love to knit, so I think it was a good buy.

"Brownie" is the cutest baby hat I have seen in a long time, and I might even try sizing it up for FL, who loves a hat that covers his ears!

For me, I like Freccia (the red one) and Medici, which is crown-like and will be fun with a lop-sided bob.

And the blue one is Turbine, another man-hat. Because my man can't have too many hand-knitted hats.

I am hoping to get ahead (ho ho ho a-head!) of my gift knitting for the coming year and hats are such a good bet for teens / men / babies - well most people really, with the possible exception of my mother!

So I have dug out a few odd balls from the stash for some serious Easter holiday knitting.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

FO: Bella Aviator trousers

My second pair of Bella trousers! Slightly crumpled after a day at the office.

This time I used an airforce blue "peachskin" cotton twill from Croft Mill . It was only £4.50 a metre and is a beautiful, substantial fabric.

Again, I cut the size 38, but this time I tapered the waist in a little more for a closer fit. Because the deep "corset" waistband is interfaced, it benefits from careful fitting. This style is perhaps too "supportive" for casual wear, as it rides up when you sit down: there is only about two inches between the top of the waistband and my bust when I am at my desk. Good for the posture!

I went for over-sized vintage buttons for a touch of vintage drama. They are navy painted wood, found in grandma's button box. The eagle-eyed among you might recognise them from Loppem.

Verdict? I really like them! Maybe even more than the khaki pair. My adjustments led to a couple of mismatched seams on the yoke, which was frustrating, but your average (non-sewing)bystander will not notice. Again I omitted the pleats and topstitched down the pocket edges.

However, I had a wardrobe crisis on the top half. It isn't warm enough to go without a jacket/ cardigan, even indoors, and I didn't have an appropriate top layer. I ended up drowning the whole look with an oversized grey kimono-like cardigan - tsk! So I really must prioritise getting or making another jacket in navy or black. Shame Tara Starlet doesn't do a "Loves Navy" or "Loves Airforce" jacket like the "Loves Army" one!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Happy Easter!

Hi everyone - and thanks for the votes of confidence in the Bagpuss Baby Batwing number! I liked the justification that a wider sleeve means less arm-bending of a wriggly baby! And the narrow cuff will still mean the sleeve stays put and doesn't ride up to smother the child.

I also like the idea of wearing it with denim. My little girl had several denim pinafores and countless sets of dungarees (inherited from her big brother), so this is a look I can relate to.

So, yes, I am at peace with the garment now. And as FL says "babies don't care what they wear".

Today I am wearing my new blue Bella trousers to work (no Bank Holidays in Scotland at Easter!). The sun is shining, the snow has almost all melted, and I am willing to believe that Spring is trying again!
The new trousers are great, but I desperately need a short navy or black jacket or cardigan. The oversized grey woolly kimono thing I am wearing kind of drowns the well-fitted high-waisted shape.

Pictures will follow as soon as I get home and ambush my photographer!

Hmmm, FL is not 100%. He was in quite a bit of of pain yesterday (back, stomach, feet) and woke several times in the night, despite taking paracetamol at regular intervals. No sign of his ultrasound referral yet. We are still planning a break on the West Coast but might have to cut it short if he doesn't improve.
He is still talking about us walking to his favourite mountain. He said he would pack a sleeping bag in his rucksack so he could have a rest along the way. Um - what about me?! I suppose I can knit and watch him snooze... but it sounds like a chilly plan! There will be no mobile phone signal in the hills, so if he is not feeling fit, I am going to veto this plan. Sorry, honey, but I can't piggy-back you home if you (or I) contract hypothermia!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

FO: Bagpuss Baby Cardi (with wings)

I have finished knitting the Busy Lizzy cardigan for an unspecified 2010 baby.

2010... being a year which comes 30 years after 1980, which is odd when you see the sleeves on this piece of confectionery! Goodness me, we are talking seriously bat-wing, baby!
I am reminded of my infamous (home-made) 1982 "disco top", which was black chiffon with a gold lurex check, worn once and once only to the Odyssey nightclub in Hull, shortly before it burnt down. I believe it may have been the static from my top which started the fire. But I digress...

I truly do not remember the sleeves being this wide when I knitted this pattern for my infant daughter. I found a photo of her wearing it, but the cardi itself is a blur.

Busy Lizzy cardigan from Rowan's "Tadpoles and Tiddlers", a pattern which I thought of as "classic" but now I am not so sure!

I made the smallest size, using one skein of Yarn Yard Bonny sock wool in Trente-et-Un, a variegated pink. The stocking stitch sections were knitted on 3.75 mm needles, and the smocking on 3 mm addis. This helped pull the smocking in, for a more gathered shape.

The original pattern has flowery intarsia on the skirt and collar, but when the yarn turned out to be busier than expected, I decided to knit it "plain".

What can I say? It is very girly, and is "vintage" in the sense that it captures the spirit of a bygone era - I am just not sure it is the era I would choose for a 2010 baby! I suppose I could rip out the sleeves and try again, but I don't really want to. I am not a fan of sewing seams in knitted garments, and this had plenty!

Help me, people! Is this one to send to the charity shop? Or would a modern mother "get" it and enjoy the funky disco vibe... in Bagpuss pink?! Because I have totally lost all sense of what's right and wrong.