Wednesday, November 30, 2011

FO: Shockingly Pink 70's Trousers

With Red Patent DM's - what else?!
Do not adjust your sets:  these trousers really are THAT bright!

Pattern:  Vintage 1970's Butterick 3289 by Betsey Johnson of Alley Cat, size Junior 7 with an extra centimetre added to the sides of the back pieces and 12mm seams all over.

Fabric:  2  metres of shocking pink chunky corduroy from Croft Mill at £6 per metre.
Zip:  7 inches, same shade of pink, found in the stash
Button: from the box.

Dance like nobody's watching : )
The Sewing:

I already made up this pattern in a chalk-stripe moleskin so knew that it would fit with the adjustments noted above.  I wear the chalk-striped pair a lot : )

I decided to have the cord nap running upwards rather than down, as the colour was richer that way up.

In total, these took me about 6 hours to make.  Easy.  I had to stop work on Sunday with just the hems and the buttonhole left to sew:  the small matter of cooking dinner intervened.

How many acres of fabric?!

The Girl has no words.  It is probably better that way.
FL chuckled and the words "clown trousers" were used, but he quickly corrected himself to say they were "lovely" and "very you"!

But actually, I didn't make these for anyone but myself.  I saw that pink fabric and knew that I needed some madly bright and fun 1970's trousers, because although a lot of my cultural memories of the time are from black and white television, it was also the era of David Bowie and hippy rainbow-coloured idealism... in between the power cuts!

Perhaps it is not a coincidence that on Saturday, The Girl and I watched Control, a film about Ian Curtis of Joy Division, which definitely captured some of the grey truths about being young in northern Britain in the 70's.  So help me.  Call it catharsis.

Back to the trousers... the cord is perhaps a bit too widely-spaced:  I do fear they look as if I had cut up a candlewick bedspread to make them!
And it is possible that they are a bit too Ziggy Stardust for my workplace...

The Good Life:  Barbara and Tom

But as an upbeat, comfortable pair of trousers to wear at home around the farm they are perfect ... because don't forget that while my teenaged self was watching "The Good Life" on tv, wishing I could be Barbara, FL was living my 1970's dream right here, where we live today.

Back then, the hives were buzzing with honey bees, there were cows in the byres and hens scratching in the yard.  I distinctly remember his sunshine-yellow terry-towelling t-shirt - mmm hmm!  They don't make them like that anymore, do they?

That lifestyle is long gone, but there are still echoes around the place. There's a rainbow sticker on one of the upstairs windows and I found his 1970's copy of John and Sally Seymour's Self-Sufficiency guide the other day - fantastic!

Sadly there is no mention of how to make clothes out of old bedspreads.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Coffee and a KitKat

Another weekend... but no hat on the needles!

Instead, I have been seized by an attack of the Westies and have embarked upon the Transatlantic Man-Shawl for The Boy.

The yarn is a pair of Zauberballs by Schoppelwolle:  Cranberries and Schokocreme.  So soft, so fluffy and so perfect for a scarf! The shifting colours have me transfixed and I can't put my knitting down.

I have also developed an unfortunate craving for coffee and Kitkats.  I am nothing if not coordinated.

It's going to be a good weekend! ; )

Thursday, November 24, 2011

FO: Fifth Weekend Hat: Zig Zag to the West

Zig Zag to the West
You may remember that Christine and I took a trip to the Glasgow School of Yarn for a workshop with Stephen West?
My Workshop Swatch

The class focussed on using travelling slip stitches over a two-colour stripe to create a pattern.  It was fun!  It looked great!  And I was determined to use the technique, probably to knit up one of Mr West's own designs.
Wanderer Cap pattern pic and my two-colour version a la Stephen West
However, when Weekend Hats arrived, I spotted this Jared Flood pattern, the Wanderer Cap, and immediately saw the potential for West-ification!

All the hot young designers are playing with this type of colourwork at the moment.  Have you seen Ysolda's Oxidize?  And she even got Stephen West to model it for her : )

I still had loads of grey / green Rowan Cashmerino Aran in the stash from my Kemps lucky-dip bag, and there was most of a ball of midnight blue Berrocco Blackstone Tweed leftover from my favourite Knitspot scarflet - perfect!

Aerial view
I ran into a technical hitch where the zig started to zag. I lost my stripe at the end of each round after turning the corner, because you are not supposed to work the last stitch of even-numbered rows, just shift it and move the marker.  Hmmm... this is what comes of trying to be clever!

I consulted Christine, who suggested adding a stitch and taking it away again later, which sounded like sense but didn't help. I considered embroidering over the "jog".  I tried purling it. But in the end I decided to leave it alone - if anyone asks, this is a special 3D-effect zig zag with a shadow behind it!

Ah - this was such fun to knit!  I find stripes so motivating, and the travelling slip-stitch gives a forward momentum:  you can't help but knit faster.
The fabric has lots of bounce, it's really soft and warm, the colours pop in contrast against each other, and it is so wonderfully geometric.
This is for FL's Christmas:  something a little more conservative this year!
I was sitting next to him as I knitted it, but he was totally oblivious - hee hee hee!
Photographic footnote:
As several other bloggers have mentioned, daylight is at a premium these days.  I had a cunning plan to take some pictures in Old Aberdeen at lunchtime.  I thought my new hat would look fab with the new library as an arty backdrop.

However... it was Graduation Day!  The place was absolutely heaving with people and my nerve failed me.  I thought about pretending to be a tourist and asking someone to take a picture for me, but they might have questioned the requested angle:  "Just my hat and the library please!"

So here is my only over-exposed attempt.

Ah, the trials of being a knitty blogger! ; )

Monday, November 21, 2011

Old Splurgey MacSplurgepants

from Swedish Elle via The Needle Diaries
First of all:  SO many comments!  Thank you so much to everyone for all your lovely hat compliments and votes of confidence on the aging process.

I definitely like the idea of going silver instead of grey - thanks to DaisyDonut for that one!

I have been knitting such a lot recently that there has been no time for sewing, but there are a gazillion projects buzzing around my brain.  The navy dress with a white collar is top of the list.  Especially after I saw this image (left) over on The Needle Diaries blog.  Ooooh!  I bet you it is the work of that Vuitton chap again!

Since my son left home, we have experienced a conspicuous drop in our electricity consumption.  As I pay a set monthly sum to cover our energy costs in advance,  I had started to build up a sizeable credit on my account.  The electricity company was happy to let me leave it there, but why should they get the benefit of my money?  So I requested a refund of the excess - woo hoo!  I popped most of it into my savings account, but as it was my birthday, I had a bit of a fabric splurge at Croft Mill. :D

May I present: The Investment in My Future Wardrobe, 2011-12 Edition?

There WILL be a Betsey Johnson coat.
There will be a Betsey Johnson dress.
There will be MORE Betsey Johnson trousers.
There will be something practical for everyday work-wear... and there will be something fabulous that I will probably never wear!

Can I suggest that you avoid CroftMill for the foreseeable future unless you are in the market for serious fabric-buying?  They have got some amazing stuff right now.  I am still not sure how I escaped without a couple of metres of sequin-embroidered, quilted-back fake fur. 

Especially since I spotted this Betsey Johnson (who else?!) pattern  over on Etsy!

A cardigan with fake-furry body or sleeves?

Errr maybe not... ; )

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me

Today I am 47 years old.I am not quite sure how that happened.  It sounds quite... middle-aged.
When I was 40, FL got the kids to fill a room with balloons for me - that was pretty surreal!  And 45 found me thoughtful and a little sad:  definitely no party.  47?  More of the same with extra grey hair.

My presents - woo  hoo!
FL actually noticed my grey hair the other day.  He laughed at me.  Oh - that hurt!  When a 76 year old man laughs at you for looking old, you know you have lost your youth. 
I had a haircut a few weeks ago, and the hairdresser seems to have sliced out all of the pigment.  I looked in the mirror and felt... washed out.  The Girl reckons I should hit the dye-pot but I am losing colour from my skin too, so kind of think I ought to accept this with grace.  I don't want to look like I am trying to "cover it up".  But this sudden acceleration from young to old shocks me.
I have been reading Diana Athill.  "Instead of a Letter" finds her at 43 - resigned to aging and writing from a standpoint of loneliness, full of regret for opportunities lost.  But then I read "Somewhere Towards the End", written when she was 89, and she is full of verve and joy and enjoyment of life.  She pokes fun at her younger self.  She found love in her 60's and it transformed her.  I am not saying that "love is the answer"!  Just... that I must not allow other people's expectations of someone my age to define me.
At 20, I was told I was too young for every job I applied for, that I must go away and get some experience and then "come back in a few years".  Of course, I never did.  I had to lower my expectations of finding a career in my field and seek "a job" to pay the rent.  So I gave up on my dreams.  I reckon that's what happens to most people.
My cards - hee hee!
But the place I find myself in now isn't so bad.  I have my First Love - how amazing is that?!  And because I know he won't be around forever, I have learned not to define myself solely in relation to "my man".  I have books and yarn and fabric and dreams.  Yes, I still have dreams, they're just different to the ones I started out with.  That's OK.
So what lies ahead of me in my 47th year?  Who knows!  But I need not to become a bitter old woman.  It would be so easy to slip into a state of seething resentment that things did not turn out differently.  I can't turn the clock back.  I have so much to be thankful for.

 P.S.  You want to know about my presents don't you?

From FL:  An Invisible Zipper foot for my sewing machine (Aargh!  Is there no escape from Invisible Zips?!) which was wrapped in many layers of paper inside a peppercorn packet inside an anchovy packet inside a biscuit box inside a shoe box :D  I actually thought he had bought me a new iron - what a lovely surprise!  He also got me The Marriage Plot and the latest book on Virginia Woolf :)

From The Girl:  Vintage knitting needles made into bracelets :)

From Christine:  Alice Starmore's book on Aran Knitting :)

Yup - spoiled rotten that's me! ; )

Now, if you'll excuse me I am off to the cinema with The Girl for a dose of Twilight!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

FO: Yet another Weekend Hat: The Roobee Ruche Beret

At last - I knitted a hat for ME!

This is the Ruche Beret by Susan B. Anderson from Weekend Hats.

The pattern calls for DK weight alpaca / merino and I just happened to have 50g of Jamie Harmon handspun naturally-dyed angora / wool mix in the stash.  It was a present from CeCe in New York - thank you again Cecelia!  It is actually a searingly bright shade of coral.  My camera couldn't cope!

This yarn was a pretty good substitute, though I went down a few needle sizes to 3.75mm (from 4.5mm) to get a closer gauge.  As a result, my hat is quite a snug fit, and more of a cloche than a beret.

FL took one look at me and said "Straight out of the 1930's!" which I take as a compliment ; )

It was a very quick and easy knit - mostly plain knitting in the round. 

When I finished I was a bit "meh" about its plain-ness and fiddled around with buttons and bows, trying to find the perfect embellishment.  In the end, I opted to pin on a faux-vintage brooch from Joules.  I reckon it adds to the Charleston vibe!

A definite Keeper!
Woo hoo!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

FO: Topiary Beanie with Rabbit

My latest hat:  the Topiary Beanie from Weekend Hats.

I knitted this for a friend's birthday.  She is 40, a mere child! ; )

This is one of those projects with a back story.  But rather like explaining a joke, perhaps you had to be there (i.e. in my head) to understand?

The story:
When my Skein Queen yarn club package arrived I wanted to knit up this glorious turquoise alpaca / silk yarn straightaway.  I thought it would make a lovely slouchy hat and earmarked the Topiary Beanie pattern from Weekend Hats.

Then the library emailed to say they had got me the novel which inspired the colourway: "When God Was a Rabbit".  As I read, it became clear that The Rabbit was actually a Belgian hare: this is relevant!

At the weekend, a friend  threw herself a 40th birthday party.  As this involved a large crowd of people, "supper" and a ceilidh, I felt unable to attend.   When I read about the Belgian hare I knew I had to give her this hat.

Because when E sold her flat to come and live up here in the frozen north, she bought herself a rather expensive painting of two hares dancing.  It was an act of profound self-confidence, and an investment in her future independent self...  rather like the party.

The Hat:

So, knitted  in support of an independent woman:  the Topiary Beanie in Skein Queen alpaca / silk mix, colourway "Eleanor Maud".

It is a very slouchy design.  E has more hair than me and I think she will suit the proportions of this hat.  If I knit it again for myself, I will go for the smaller size.
This was a rather intense piece of knitting.  The lace section is quite tricky, but a manageable portion size.  I  never did get used to "knit 4 together" or "slip slip slip knit", let alone throwing a "pass the slipped stitch over" into the mix.  I also encountered an intriguing wrap stitch for the first time, which was easy but momentarily baffling!  So it was quite a good challenge to my lace-knitting skills.

My favourite design feature is an inch-wide band of slipped stitches which runs up the centre back of the hat, drawing it back and down.  It adds stability and definition to the shape, emphasising the drape of the fabric.  The alpaca / silk yarn was a good choice - phew!

The Book:

And what of "When God Was a Rabbit"?

After my first reading, it was easier to say what I did NOT like about it, which seems rather unfair, as it isn't a badly written book.

 I was irritated by the almost-constant references to a timeline from 1968 to 2000-and-something, pinning events a little too self-consciously to their date in recent history .  I can almost guarantee that the author looked at archived copies of The Daily Mail  to validate her period detail, and in the process came across lots of juicy sub-plot ideas.

So this novel has all the topical tabloid news favourites:  a kidnapping, child abuse, domestic violence, television games shows, viagra, cancer, gay parties, camp celebrities, homophobia.  At the same time, I was struck by the avoidance of any mention of race in what is a terribly "issue"-based novel...unless you count the "woolly-haired" murderess Jenny Penny and the messed-up elderly Jewish villain...hmmm. It is a very white middle-class world.
According to the author's postscript, she came in for some criticism for using the Twin Towers in the novel, but I found this no more of a problem than the inclusion of other pieces of news around which the plot was draped.  People closer to that reality may feel differently.

The characters do not seem to have their own identities and their relationships are strangely cold.  They are the subjects and objects of stories and anecdotes.

 I wonder if this is actually a very clever piece of writing and that their apparent lack of feelings is entirely deliberate?  That they are all victims of world events?  That they are not responsible for their own actions?  Things happen to them, but they don't really do anything.

I liked the Rabbit / Belgian hare.  He does a fine line in throwaway humour.  In many ways, this is the most believeable character in the whole book:  a talking rabbit called god.  And yet, he too is the victim of an accident.

Oh dear!  Can't any one of you take control of your lives?!  Is this, then, a book about destiny?  "What's for ye will nae go past ye" as my mother would say.

But for all my disquiet, I found a lot to enjoy in this novel.  I laughed out loud at several points.  I read bits out to FL and he laughed too. I started scanning through the book again last night and realised I had to get a copy to give my friend, alongside her hat.  And that sounds like a recommendation, doesn't it?

So, there you have it:  a hat for E, in celebration of being 40.  Happy Birthday!

Oh - and the final piece of serendipity?  When I went to the cupboard to look for wrapping paper, I found this piece of Belle and Boo paper with illustrations of a girl and her pet rabbit that I had completely forgotten about!  Destiny!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

FO: Another Weekend Hat, the Greenery Beret

Excuse tortured expression - my photographer was getting shaky!
I am on a hat-knitting roll right now!

This is the Greenery Beret from Weekend Hats, which was a very quick knit, though not an easy one.

"Knit 4 together" is much more easily said than done, let alone "yarn over, slip one, knit three together, pass the slipped stitch over" when your stitches are at the end of a slippery blunt-ended dpn.

How many times do you reckon I passed the yarn-over over, instead of the slipped stitch...? Or dropped the whole lot off the needle? Yeah.  Choose your needles with care!  A circular needle would have been sensible, but I didn't have one small enough.

This hat is peppered with mistakes.  I know this because I had to do some... fudging (see reference to yarnovers above).  But even though I know that to be a fact, I can't spot the errors - bargain!

I used a leftover skein of handpainted dk wool from Uruguay.  I used it to knit my Pioneer top.  It is soft and pretty with amazing yardage.  I had 50g of yarn left in the ball even after knitting this hat.  It might be enough to knit another one! This one is a gift. 

Before blocking, this was a fairly close-to-the head tam and you couldn't really see the fan pattern.  After a soak in wool wash and a few days stretched over a dinner plate, we have an actual lacey beret-shaped hat!  I love the way the decreases were worked into the pattern on the crown  - like a kaleidoscope!

This pattern would be amazing in a self-striping Noro-type yarn :D

So what's next?
You don't think I've stopped knitting hats do you?

I am already deeply engrossed in the Topiary Beanie, also from Weekend Hats.  I am working to a deadline on this one, with a friend's birthday looming at the end of the week.  I was going to gift her a pair of socks but realised I was more likely to run out of time on a sock project than a hat.

Only having one head helps.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Lula and Louis? Meet Betsey J!

This is the latest issue of Lula magazine, an expensive and hard-to-source publication which I appear to be collecting despite the fact that I could re-sell my back copies on Eebaay for enormous profit!
Note that white collar.  It turns up a lot in this issue.  Mostly as designed by Louis Vuitton, a designer whom I generally greet with a shrug and a lip curl due to those ubiquitous fake bags on market stalls.  Not his fault I suppose!
There is an amazing LV hotpants-jumpsuit further into the magazine which showcases this detail.  I think the collar may be laser-cut white leather and the main body of the suit is velvet or maybe a boiled wool? It has massive decorative buttons too - oooh!

So when I was feeling a bit fragile and distracted last night (don't worry - it's nothing new) and came across a 1970's Betsey Johnson dress pattern on Etsy with similar features, my heart started racing.  Ooh the possibilities!
It has a front zip and a lace-trimmed oversized Peter Pan collar.

I am thinking navy velvet with a white pique collar and maybe a brass-toothed zip.  Big patch pockets with decorative button tabs?

I would like to wear it to my office Christmas lunch - so there's a deadline to aim for!

Exciting!  A new sewing project to play with!  Now to find some fine navy velvet...

Sunday, November 06, 2011

So Much Knitting

Thank you so much for your enthusiasm for Betty Jean.  She is deeply flattered, but is lying down with a cold compress on her fevered brow, so can't come to the blog right now ; )
As you may have gathered, I am having a Major Knitting Moment.

Greenery Beret
There are so many new inspiring knitting pattern books and magazines coming out at the moment.

Weekend Hats
I already showed you my Leaves Long Beanie.

This weekend's project is the Greenery Beret.  I happened to have exactly the right colour of dk wool in the stash, leftover from making my Pioneer top.  Destiny!  I have knitted one pattern repeat, and although I know I won't finish the hat today, it will certainly be this week.

Skein Queen
My first Skein Queen club package arrived and ... oh gosh, oh wow... it is perfectly in tune with my preferences!  I opted for the semi-solid option and it is a rich deep turquoise, overlaid with a warm chocolate brown.  The base is an alpaca and silk sportweight.

It would make a lovely slouchy-styled hat, if I can resist saving it for yet another shawl.

I have a very good feeling about this yarn club!  The accompanying recommended read is "When God Was a Rabbit" and my local library reserved it for me within the week :)

A Stitch In Time Volume Two

Has arrived.

It is immensely huge.
I love some things while others... others are not to my taste.  At all.  But there is more than enough love to outweigh the scary-looking garments.

"Scary?"  Well, this may be a controversial comment, but I don't think that all the patterns survived the grading process.  Those teeny tiny skinny 40's ladies looked amazing in those delicate garments, but scaled up to thicker yarn to fit larger ladies, I think that in some cases there has been a loss of design integrity.

Scaled up, there is an element of "fancy-dress" about some of these patterns, rather than the wearable reproduction of a garment for a larger size.  Something has been lost in translation.
But there is still plenty in this book to excite me!

So you can expect to see more knits appearing on this blog. 

And if not, I need to be challenged at dawn, because it is definitely not enough just to look at the pretty pictures!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

FO: A Weekend Hat ( Leaves Long Beanie)

This week's Waiting Room entertainment is brought to you by Weekend Hats:  25 Knitted Caps, Berets, Cloches and More. (You can see a Preview and Table of Contents on that page.)

I came across this book in the News Section of the new UK knitting magazine, Knit Now.  Mooncalf wrote about Knit Now yesterday and I totally concur with her assessment, right down to the need to knit the Forest Gloves!  Read her review here.

Back to Weekend Hats...  it is fab!  I want to knit almost everything in this book, and that doesn't happen often.  I particularly like the Wanderer Cap (which is by Jared Flood but looks like a Stephen West design) and the Greenery Beret (by Melissa Labarre).

But I had this stunning blue PoshYarn superwash merino aranweight in the stash which I wanted to use for a Christmas hat for a shocking-pink-haired girl.  The Leaves Long Beanie pattern calls for worsted weight (same as aran) so the decision made itself.
It was a quick and easy knit.  The only thing I changed was that I added a tassel :D

I was slightly worried that it was looking too staid for its intended recipient. It wasn't slouchy enough to call a rasta hat or fitted enough to call a beanie, so was treading an uneasy middle ground.

I suddenly remembered a favourite hat from my childhood which had this plait and tassel feature.  I loved to skip along feeling the plait bounce off my shoulder!
Some members of my household suspect that I do not intend to give this hat away.  But Christmas is fast approaching so now is not the time to be selfish!
And I take my hat off to people who take the photographs for headwear-knitting books.

It is so hard to get the pictures to show the colour, the shape and the fit in a flattering light!

I was not helped by our fabulous new windows.  You can see through them!  The wind no longer whistles through the cracks in the glass!  But... gone are my lovely (grubby) white gloss-painted window-ledges!  Now I am surrounded by unfinished plywood and I have no curtain-poles in my bedroom - eek!

Now I need to factor in the whole diy / painting palaver to my pre-Christmas weekend crafting schedule - ugh!  This was definitely not part of my plan.  Maybe I will wait til The Boy comes home for Christmas to help me - now that really IS a good plan!

Meanwhile, I'm off to knit more hats!

P.S. I am rather enjoying seeing the stars from my bed at night.  And getting up with the birds certainly frees up more knitting time!