Sunday, January 29, 2012

Possessions, Pathology and a Reading List

Curtains at last!
Yesterday, after vacuuming and scrubbing the floor, I pulled out and catalogued my fabric stash, from the suitcase, the bin bag, the potato sack and the holdall.  Everything.  I now know that I have the materials to make 26 garments.  I am not proud.  I suspect I do not even like some of those materials, but at least they are listed and quantified.

Over the past week, I have been reading Howard's End is on the Landing by Susan Hill.  The premise of the book is the rediscovery of a lifetime's reading collection around the author's home, the chance groupings of like and unlike texts and the memories associated with each.  The outcome of her year-long survey was a list of 40 books she could not live without, an idiosyncratic list, but all the more interesting for it.  It made me regret the purging of my library before I came North.  I whittled it down to three boxes, donating many many more to a London University library and a Walthamstow charity shop.  Where are those books now, I wonder?

At the same time I have been dipping in and out of The Wonderful Weekend Book by Elspeth Thompson. It is subtitled: "How to reclaim life's simple pleasures" and sets out to cover similar ground to Romancing the Ordinary by Sarah Ban Breathnach, a book I keep by my bedside at all times.  But I am afraid the Wonderful Weekend irritated me in that special way reserved for (whisper it) J.B. the author of a famous domesticity blog / books.  In one word: privilege.  I can't cope with it.  Shoulder chip?  Moi? Absolutely.

Moving on, and I am currently immersed in The Stranger in the Mirror by Jane Shilling.  Subtitled "A Memoir of Middle Age", it is speaking to me.  So much of this is familiar.  And frequent references to Virginia Woolf only serve to endorse what she writes and make it... true.  But I was bristling at a quote from Simone de Beauvoir of the "Pathological Creativity" of middle-aged women.  Pathological?!  Because we can no longer make babies we manufacture endless and pointless knitted and crocheted artefacts.  Ouch!  I need to go back to The Second Sex.  I remember being totally taken with it in my teens.

Jane Shilling writes about observing her mother and her grandmother, and their relative acceptances of age and aging.  And about having to choose "which parent to save", deciding to leave her father in a nursing home for a week in order to take her mother on holiday, returning to find him withdrawn and terribly alone.  It is not an easy read but it feels like an important one. 

Last night, as I was curled up on the sofa with The Stranger..., FL got up from sleeping in his chair and shuffled through to the toilet.  Shortly afterwards there was an almighty crash.  I ran through to find he had tried to reach above his head to switch on the bathroom heater, overbalanced and fallen backwards, hitting himself on the bath and pulling the towel rail off the wall on his way down.  He claimed to be "fine" but he stayed in bed longer than usual this morning and has not gone out to meet his friends at the golf club.  He has a new vulnerability.  This is what aging really means:  the subtle changes that lead to a loss of independence, the worry of leaving a partner on their own in case of an accident. 

Today I indulged in Angry Cleaning.  This is how I let off steam when I am scared or worried:  I scrub and scour and tidy and restore order.  The kitchen reeks of bleach.  The dog is hiding in his basket.  I will finish writing this and then pick up my pathological knitting or perhaps another book.

Also on the windowsill:
The Age of Shiva
The Proof of Love
Spin Cycle
Alone Together
and (not pictured)
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Saturday, January 28, 2012

After the Ceilidh

I can't believe it is just a week since the Crafters' Ceilidh:  it feels like a long long time ago!  But it certainly explains why I haven't done much sewing since.

Because I had to leave early, I wasn't able to go to the Sewing Cafe with everyone else, but there was no way I was going to miss out on the pattern / fabric swap!  I left four patterns in Kestrel's care and I am really looking forward to seeing them appear around the blogosphere!  Scruffybadger has already confessed to taking the Star Wars costume pattern (!) and just the other day House of Pinheiro showed the Amy Butler mini-dress pattern. Somewhere out there is a stunning 50's dress pattern that I could not understand, and a 60's back-zipped top that was simply far too big for me.  I really hope their new owners can make them work!

And what did I get in return?  Kestrel made some really great choices for me!  Three
Simplicity patterns, all from the 70's - so many possibilities!  And she also picked out a piece of coral red stretch cotton which is a pretty good colour match for the hat I was wearing last Saturday.  I might try out the Jasmine pattern with this, if there is enough.

But this weekend I am making a start on my velvet shorts.  I ran into a problem with the pdf pattern.  Can you see that this piece doesn't quite line up with all the others?  It is really odd.  To make the pattern shapes continuous, I have to leave a gap between the "tiles" of A4 and the 1-inch grid lines no longer marry up.  I have emailed the designer for advice.  I scoured the internet and no-one who has made these shorts has mentioned a problem.  Curiouser and curiouser.

But right now I am off to the library.  Remember I loaded up my reading wishlist at New Year?  My requests have been fulfilled - all eight books at once!  More about that another day.

FL Update:  In spite of our trepidations, he is not in any pain from his extraction and is feeling quite chipper today - woo hoo!  Thank you all for your good wishes :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Half-Finnish-ed Pair

One sock down, one to go

So... half a pair

I am using the Portti Sukat charts:  3 rows of pigtailed girls, a garden of airy flowers, another 2 rows of girls.  Alternating colours underfoot with picket fences crossing the foot and leg for good measure.  Plain heels and toes.

The yarn is plain navy Online Supersocke 100 with Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in "Hula Kolili" for the colourwork.  2.5mm dpns.

For me.  My mother asked me how old I was.  I guessed about 12.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sew... What's Next?

Thank you for all your supportive words re FL.  There is nothing to be done until Friday's appointment except try to jolly him along.  Dexy day today : (
Onwards, onwards...

One of the most Frequently Asked Questions at the Crafters' Ceilidh was "What are you sewing now? Or what's next?"
I wasn't very good at answering on the day.  I am "between jobs"!
But having purchased two entirely unplanned lengths of fabric, I am now overflowing with inspiration!

70cm of purple cotton velvet MUST be enough for a pair of shorts!

I plan to use the downloadable Scalloped Shorts pattern from Pattern Runway at Etsy.

I haven't seen too many (any?) of these around the UK blogs, perhaps because the designer is Australia-based?  But in these days of internetty connections, there is no reason why we shouldn't sew designs from the other side of the world!

I like their simple sharp shape.  I might omit the back pockets to avoid velvet traumas with those bindings...

And my other surprise purchase, the red and green crinkled plaid?  Ah well, it is destined for a Vivienne-Westwood-esque asymmetric skirt (spelled it correctly this time!) by Martha Mcquade.  I know I had the Stitch magazine that this came from but I can't find it.  Perhaps I purged it in a fit of spring-cleaning?  But not to worry - there is an online sew-along and the pattern can be downloaded free from the Sew Daily - woo hoo!
I was inspired by The Material Girl's version here.
I don't have the instructions (having lost the magazine) but I reckon I can work out what to do.
NOT printing the pattern out double-sided would be a good start!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Crafters' Ceilidh: 100% Various!

Today I was up at 6am to travel to Edinburgh for a very special gathering:  the Crafters' Ceilidh!

Please note that I used my travel time wisely to cast on my Bettie's Pullover.
The event was organised by this trio of creative ladies:  Debi, Kerry and Kristen.

We met at Frederick Street Coffee House:  bloggers and stitch-ists from as far afield as Bath and London, with a fair smattering of locals too.

Our wonderful hostesses had planned a whistle-stop tour of the best Edinburgh could offer lovers of vintage, knitting and sewing supplies.
We visited Armstrongs, Edinburgh fabrics, Mandors and The Cloth Shop.
Lets's all shake hands!
I met old friends and new.  I was absolutely delighted to finally meet Karen, Melizza and Scruffybadger.

I was really sorry that Miss Dibs couldn't make it.
Be well, missus!  We missed you!

You know how you feel like you "know" people through their blogs?
And how easy it is to chat away when everyone shares the same language of "Meringues" and "Beignets" and "Taffy"!
Isn't it clever of Colette to name their patterns like this?  "Simplicity 1234" just isn't as memorable or evocative of a sewing treat!

We had a group photo session in Princes Street gardens.

There was lots of grinning!

I am looking forward to seeing the "official" group photo by the fountain on Debi's blog:  her husband kindly offered to pander to the vanity of 22 (or so) sewing-obsessives and take over point-and-shoot duties.
And we all got a chance to view THAT coat up close - oooh!

Can I just say:  it is even more impressive in real life.

My home-made coat sighed a little sigh and flashed its red buttons in humble recognition of something rather more sophisticated!

As well as the social whirligig, I did a little shopping :)

On my list was:  skirt lining, coat lining, tailor's chalk and woven interfacing.  I got them all!

I also may have succumbed to a remnant of purple cotton velvet to make a pair of winter shorts - hee hee hee!  And 2 metres of a red and green warm plaid seersucker-ish fabric.  This is destined to be some sort of bias-cut assymetric Westwood-influenced skirt.  Listen - they made me do it! 
Believe that and you'll believe anything...

It was SUCH a great day!  Yay - I kept my Resolution to Get Out There!

Next time I will plan to stay for dinner.  I felt like a manic Cinderella as I power-walked up Leith Walk trying to get to the station in time to catch my 5.40pm train.  The perceptive among you will notice that my train ticket was for Haymarket station... which is nowhere near our final shopping destination!  I tried to catch a bus back to Princes Street, but missed the only one I saw - nooooo!  So I ended up half-jogging to Waverley station and begging the guard to let me board the train a stop too early.  They were just about to close the doors - talk about a close thing!  I nearly had to spend the night in Edinburgh after all!

P.S. "100% Various" was the fibre contents description I saw on a bolt of fabric in The Cloth Shop - I wish I had taken a photo!  It made me laugh!
The only photo of me on my camera and my eyes are shut - typical! But more to the point - look at poor Tom and Debi in the background trying to get everyone to pose together for the group picture, while the three of us were messing about swapping cameras!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Stripes with Everything

So... you know how I am supposed to be "knitting from stash" this year?  I said exactly the same thing in January 2008... and then on 23 January 2008 (I know, because I checked the blog!) I ordered 8 balls of self-striping sock yarn from Germany.

That was four years ago!

And this is what I did with the yarn:

Pippi Longstocking!

Colonial Rib


Undulating rib

self-striping baby

Metropole in a Sidewind

Oh -  hello!  Still in the stash, eh?
I am really pleased to see that I made good use of the yarn.  All of those socks are still going strong, despite male feet and studenty washing-machine abuse! I can therefore highly recommend the purchase of Online Supersocke yarn!

With just one ball left lurking in the stash, I was thinking it might be time to renew my supply, when I noticed that my drug dealer   supplier has some new ranges in stock - ooh!

I don't really like the sort of self-patterning yarn that tries to be fair-isle.  I prefer plain stripes.  In fact, most of all I prefer "colours with black" stripes.  That was why I signed up for rather-pricey Goth Socks Club in 2009.  Ah - that Goth Socks yarn is so pretty!  But sadly it has not survived the washing and wearing experience.  I have reserved my last skein for a special treat, to be hand-washed in lavender water ; )

So... when I saw that the gurus of hard-wearing-yet-soft-enough sock yarn had come up with a "black and..." stripe, with added aloe vera and jojoba (like FL's favourite Austermann socks), I was sold.  IT was sold!

Online Paradise Sock yarn
So much for resolutions, eh?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Knit Now Inspirations

Back in November, I mentioned buying Issue One of Knit Now magazine and my love of the Autumn Forest Gloves pattern.  Since then I have sought out each edition... with some difficulty, as none of the "expected" shops have consistently had it on their shelves.  So I found it once at Asda, once at Tesco, once at RS Mccolls and now (Issue 4) at Morrisons (a single copy hidden at the back of the bottom shelf!).  I give up - I am going to subscribe!

I don't often take out a subscription.   I tried The Knitter for a year, but although I enjoyed the articles, the only items I ever knitted were the Baird neckwarmer and the Nexus socks.  Now what does this tell you?  Oh yes - I knit accessories!

And that is where Knit Now comes in, because it is devoted exclusively to smaller knits:  gloves, hats, socks, scarves, the occasional shawl, bags and baby items.

Licorice gloves by Sam Parfitt
Issue 3 was the one which really got me hooked.  Within 24 hours I had ordered the yarn to make two / three of the designs!   I NEVER do that!

All three handwear designs are knitted from a "palette pack" of sportweight yarn by Brown Sheep.

The Licorice Gloves are my absolute favourite, but I can definitely imagine wearing the Lotus Eater Mitts and gifting the Zena Mittens.  Another knitter on Ravelry has discovered that one Palette Pack is enough to knit both  the Licorice and Lotus Eater patterns, but I ordered an extra ball of the deep violet to allow me to make the Zena Mittens.  Probably not enough yarn for all three pairs, though, so at some point I will have to make a decision.
Zena Mittens
Lotus Eater Mitts
The other pattern in Issue 3 to catch my eye is a knitted Peter Pan collar - ooh!  This is high up the wish list too!

Ayli hat
As for Issue 4... I found it on Saturday and already I am itching to knit the Ayli hat:  a hat with windflaps and pigtails and buttons - yay! 

Skinny Scarf
Surprisingly, I also really like the super-simple Skinny Scarf, which is hard to see in the magazine itself, but is photographed more clearly on Ravelry here.
And there's a great hat from Woolly Wormhead's Bambeanies Book, the Moochie.

And some rather gorgeous Thistle Mittens and a beret which uses self-striping yarn in a stranded design, to great effect, the Eliza Day Tam.
As well as the patterns, I am impressed by the news and reviews pages.  Despite spending more hours a day on Ravelry than is strictly necessary, I come across lots of new-to-me items in every issue. 

Although all magazines rely on advertising to survive, the editor seems to have retained the right to showcase "big name spinner" patterns that she actually likes.  So there is a really cute Sublime baby sweater pattern, the Matelot (not linked to the magazine yet on Ravelry) and a versatile Sirdar beret "recipe".

All in all, I really like this publication.  I fear for its survival, though, because it has been so hard to find a copy each month.  It gets buried behind the bigger brasher knitting magazines and shops do not seem to have it on their regular list.  So I will subscribe... and hopefully the word will spread and it will still be around in another year :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

FO: A Bit of a Meringue Skirt

Oh - hello!  Do you have any idea how cold it is out here?  It's minus something or other, and I just spotted a neighbour in full Russian-army-surplus garb lurking over the wall, wondering what I am  doing out here in a silly little skirt and no coat!
I can't actually feel my fingers any more.  I can't operate the self-timer.  OK that's it - he's still staring!  I am going indoors!
So what have we here then, Roo?


Pattern:  The Meringue Skirt from the Colette Sewing Handbook

Fabric:  Less than 1 metre of black stretch cotton sateen, leftover from my Audrey-inspired trousers, with a tiny bit of navy and white polka-dot cotton to face the scalloped hem

And how is the fit?
Well... the book suggests that a size zero has a 38 inch hip and a 26 1/2 inch waist.  That's way too big on the bum and too tight at the waist for me.  At that rate I was going to have to cut a size 4 or 6 at the waist and less than a zero at the hip... so I tried measuring the pattern pieces and doing some sums and came up with the cunning plan of sewing a size 2.

It is too big at the waist.  Probably by about 2 inches.  This is rather frustrating.  I was sewing a new skirt to wear to work because I am tired of safety-pinning my drooping waistbands to the top of my tights.  But at least I know now - I am a zero in Meringues!  (Go on say it - you need to EAT more damned meringues, Roo!)

And the Sewing?
It all went swimmingly at first.  The scallops are very well-drafted and as long as you match your pivot points properly, the hem facing lies flat.  I followed the advice of other bloggers to trim the scallop edges as far down as possible after stitching, rather than cutting notches into the curves before turning right-sides out.  Notches run the risk of fraying fabric, in my opinion.  They came out pretty well, if I say so myself!

However, I had a trauma with the waist-facing.  The instructions confused me.  It was the Ginger experience all over again!  As I did not have an invisible zip, I should have ignored the advice on "how to achieve a neat finish", as I ended up with a great fat wodge of mess at the top of the lapped zip, which only got messier when I tried trimming away the excess layers of interfacing / zip-top / facing fabric. Let's just say I will not be wearing this skirt with tucked-in tops!

It is a wearable muslin.

That's fine, because it didn't cost me anything:  all the materials were leftover from other projects except the zip which I think I "won" in a giveaway a long time ago.

And it is perfectly wearable.  It is really quite cute in terms of its scallop-iness and its length.  And it is black so should go with lots of things... though for the life of me I didn't know what shoes to wear!  The Girl says the ankle-boots are a mistake, especially with the cobalt-blue tights (by Mary Portas, in case you were wondering!)  Maybe my flat black pumps would be best... if I could find them!

Next time?
Make the smaller size, in a fabric without any stretch, and add a proper waistband rather than a facing.  And yes, there WILL be a next time : )

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The weekend, in full technical detail

At last it is the weekend!  It has been a hard hard week, trying to readjust to early rising and commuting.
My car's electrics have been acting up with blown fuses and headlights that won't go off unless you pull the key out of the ignition.
FL and I have both learned more than we wanted to know about the fuse box, but neither of us has solved the problem and tempers have been frayed as FL's triumphant "I've fixed it!" is splattered by my "OH no you haven't!" the next time I start the engine.
It doesn't help that he cancelled my garage appointment. Sigh.  And to think it all began when FL tried to use the car cigarette lighter socket to charge my mobile phone... which blew the radio fuse... which blew the headlights fuse... which... ugh!
Enough of that.
And guess what?  This morning, mysteriously, the headlights are fine. 

FL isn't fine - his cold has come back full-force, just like New Year, and his teeth hurt and he is exhausted.  I am administering tea and sympathy but he prefers whisky with honey and lemon!

I need to get back in the groove.  The obvious thing to do is use fabric from the stash to sew a tried and tested pattern.  But I wanted something "new".  So I got up early this morning and traced the Meringue Skirt pattern from my Colette Handbook.  The sizing is strange.  On the face of it, I need to make the waist wider than the hip to make it fit.  This cannot be right!  So I have cut a size 2 and am going to stitch it and see what happens...  I have a suitable stash remnant so there's nothing to lose except patience.

I am enjoying very happy sock-knitting with my Finnish experiment.
Don't read too much into this:  I am only using the charts!
The Finnish words surrounding them are only comprehensible with the help of google translate which tells me this is a "sock recipe" for users to adapt to suit themselves.
That's what I am doing, thank you!
However, I do now know the Finnish words for "needles", "pattern", "socks" and "yarn" :D

Designing? (Warning - heavy on the technical detail!)

Hmmm.  My design idea for a knitted cowl has reached the point where I have to admit defeat.  I know what is wrong with it:  I tried to throw too many ideas at one project.  It had three separate stitch patterns, each of which knitted up at a different gauge, so the resultant fabric was puckered and mis-shapen.  I considered adding short-row shaping to the mix, but realised I was over-complicating the design to a ridiculous degree.

For those interested in the technical detail:  it was to be a strip of knit, joined at either end to form the cowl shape, possibly twisted over, moebius style.  So basically a simple rectangle of knitting, using stitch patterns which look the same on both sides of the fabric, rendering the item reversible (ooh!).

To one side, there was to be a deep border of lace, which would gradually get narrower, next to a big chunky cable which would cross the piece on the diagonal, next to a border of seed stitch which would gradually get wider as the cable moved across.

But as any fool knows, seed stitch is dense and tight while bird's eye lace is loose and drapey. Every time the cable crosses, it warps the overall fabric shape.  Movement on the diagonal required the introduction of garter stitch stripes across the lace section, to preserve the holey pattern as stitches were lost. It is possible that short-row shaping of these garter stripes might have helped regain some of the lost rectangularity, but this is the point at which I decided it was all getting out of hand.

I tried gathering the lacey section down each garter stripe and it looked pretty good, but that didn't help the too-tight seed stitch section, which moves in and out like the tide, according to the pull of the cable.  Yes, stern use of a steam iron might have knocked it into shape, but this would just be an attempt to cover up the inherent design flaw.  I don't want a flawed design!

Now... someone reading this might very well know how to make this idea work and will make their fortune on Ravelry selling pdf patterns of the resultant design (LOL).

 To this mythical person I say:  "Congratulations!  You earned your money, honey!  Because I am out of here with this damn-fool idea!"   ; )

Norby by Gudrun Johnson

 It was to be called "Skene's Moss", a terrible pun about the family who farmed here in the 19th century (the Skenes), the geese that fly overhead (in skeins), and the SkeinQueen yarn I used for the prototype.  Convoluted, rather like the design itself!
I think this yarn will make a lovely Norby hat!  So that's where it is headed. 

Better luck next time, Roo!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Thank you for all the positive words regarding my "manifesto".  I hesitated about posting it, thinking I sounded a bit too full of myself, and knowing I was setting myself up to be shot down (or to just fall off my pedestal headfirst into the mud!)  Some people mentioned thrifting / charity shop-buying.  I haven't had much luck with that up here.  I don't know what younger women do with their cast-offs in Aberdeen, but I don't see them appearing in the charity shops.  1990's Eastex suits for Sunday church-going?  Absolutely!  A Karen Millen mini dress?  Not on your nelly!
So where was I...?  Following my pontifications of Tuesday, I realised that I need to get a dress out of my head and into fabric.
You know the one.
It is very much like Anna Allen's Henriette plaid smock (left), or this Liberty wool number from Nadinoo or Velvet Bird's checked version of Lola Sings The Blues.
Anna Allen Dress

Nadinoo dress

Velvet Bird's dress

Defining features:
High yoke with gathers or pin-tucks
Peter Pan collar
Long  / 3/4 length sleeve gathered onto a narrow cuff
Back-fastening,  probably buttoned
Above the knee
Loose-fitting, without looking like I am nine months gone
Brushed cotton fabric

I was certain that one of my Japanese books would have something similar, but none of the dress patterns were quite right.  I don't yet feel ready to attempt to draft my own design.

So it was over to Etsy...


NOT maternity - phew!
Of the three, the one that looks most like the dress-of-dreams is McCall's 3463, a maternity smock - sigh!
But I am sure it will be easy enough to pare away a few inches of width from the gathered section.  The envelope notes that it has "the new narrower shoulder" which sounds promising!  It is interesting that all three patterns come from around the same era:  1971-2.

I also found a pattern from the 60's which has a far narrower silhouette, Simplicity 6299.  But it also seems to have a higher neckline, which would be harder (for me) to adjust than the skirt section of the maternity smocks.  And its case was not helped by a note from the seller of this copy that the collar and sleeve pieces are missing!  (Collar - Ok to re-draft, but the sleeve?)  And I didn't want to have to buy the "wrong" size and have to re-size the whole thing.  Ah the perils of vintage patterns!

So I ordered McCall's 3463.

And fabric?  Well... I was considering the purchase of some tartan-esque cotton.  "Sewing from stash"?  Who said that?!
Both pictured fabrics are from CalicoLaine.  The red was made in Portugal (£6.99) , the lilac in the UK (£3.99).  But I wasn't sure about either.  I prefer the lilac but the seller is clear that it isn't as high-quality as the red.  I really do not want to deal with another troublesome tartan terror fabric right now!

I searched online for "ethical" fabric and located organic fairtrade handloomed checked cotton here and here.  But neither sold the warm brushed flannel-type fabric I was looking for.  I want a winter-weight garment.  I thought about using velvet instead (ethical cotton velvet!  Wow!)  but really wanted to stick to my original "vision".  And velvet might be too bulky for this design.

And then... then I found the most amazing-sounding fabric!

"Looks like wool, feels like wool, yet sews and washes like cotton with no scratchy wool itch. Woolies flannel is cozy perfection with classic designs like herringbones, plaids, tweeds and dots in a rich array of home-friendly colours. Guy friendly too! They handle beautifully and need little pinning as the nap keeps the fabric together when sewing! We are sure you will love them too!"

I AM SMITTEN!  (at £12 a metre it had better be as good as they claim!)
Now... dots or checks?

And the resultant ethics?
Vintage pattern imported from the US, so recycling with a bad carbon footprint! Does one cancel out the other?
Fabric is allegedly pure cotton, so "natural", but it is not fairtrade or organic and it is imported from the US.  At least it is from a UK shop:  Quilter's Haven
Pattern:  £4.64 plus £4.64 shipping (tsk!)
Fabric:  3 metres would come to £36.  I haven't bought it yet.  I looked at buying it direct from the US but the shipping plus risk of import tax cancels out any savings.
Total:  Around £45 - £50 for materials... I still have to make it!
For comparison:
Anna Allen dress: around £115
Velvet Bird Dress:  around £60
Nadinoo dress:  £155
"You pays yer money and you takes yer choice"...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why Do I Sew? The Roobeedoo Manifesto

This is currently a no-sew area and I am frustrated!  But what better time for an appraisal of where I am at?
I have fallen out with the plaid fabric for my Betsey Johnson pintuck tunic.  If it looks this bad now, what will it look like after a day's wear?  It is definitely not the pure cotton it pretended to be.  I suspect viscose.  Whatever it is, I can't make it work.  It crumples, and stays crumpled.  It attracts dog hair like a magnet.  It refuses to stay aligned with my pattern, shifting and biasing like crazy, however many pins I deploy. It was cheap.  It is nasty. It is OK to give up on it.  I just need to put it away and move on.
I bought myself the Colette Sewing Book for Christmas ('cos lets face it, nobody in my household understood my need for that book!).  And while I am having real trouble slowing down enough to read it properly, there is a definite up-front message about stopping to consider WHY I sew, before diving into the projects one after the other in a flurry of feathers (headless chicken analogy, in case you are confused!)
What is my relationship to shop-bought clothing right now?
Well, I am doing an amazing job of avoiding the online January sales.  Probably because none of the things I liked full-price are reduced - or if they are, they were sold out before I saw them.  But, hand on heart, there is absolutely nothing that I really really wanted.  I simply don't like most of the clothes I see in shops. And my choice of shops is dwindling as my ethical stance gets stronger (see below).

With orange t shirt
So what DO I like?

LOVE my Velvet Bird dress!  I wore it on Christmas day and I wore it for my hot date at Wetherspoons with FL.  And my hand hesitated as I pulled out clothes to wear for my first day back at work after the holidays - could I possibly wear it to the office?

I decided not to risk it on Day One, in case I was sent home sick with an obvious fever.
What is it about this dress?

The Shape
It is simple, easy to wear and comfortable.  I think the length (or lack of it) takes about 20 years off me... and that alone was a reason not to wear it to work.  Too youthful.  Unprofessional.  Fun.  Sigh.

with aubergine t shirt
The Fabric
This is a very big factor.  It is a fairly heavy cotton plaid, slightly brushed for softness and warmth.  The colours glow and go so well with my three long-sleeved t-shirts (deep orange, aubergine and forest green)
The Versatility
As well as working with my existing under-layers, it looks great with a long cardigan on top.  Hilariously enough, the cardigan is longer than the dress!  I would love to find a vintage man's aran cardigan to wear with it.  (Vintage cardigan not vintage man!)

The Detail
The oversized bow.  It is totally nuts.  But it takes this dress from Backwoods Farmgirl to Hoxton Hipster in one easy move.  (Be gentle with me, dear readers!)

The Provenance
I can point to the person who made this.  Here she is!  Not only do I know that Vanessa made this dress for me, but I know that she priced it in a way which acknowledged her own work and she chose to make a donation out of her profit to (to fight and prevent human trafficking in the U.S.).
What can I learn from this?

Well, apart from the fact that I am in the wrong job...!

It's not just about the look of my clothing, it is increasingly about the ethics of my purchasing choices.  It matters to me what materials my clothes are made of and the conditions in which they were stitched.  This is my main objection to the High Street right now.  I feel uncomfortable that I may be supporting a sweatshop  of exploited children.  (Those 3 long-sleeved t-shirts?  Poor ethical choice, Roo!) I don't like wearing artificial fibres.  I would prefer my cotton to be organically grown, dyed in a way that did not poison rivers, and my wool not to have come from mutilated sheep. 

And that all adds up to a scary set of selection criteria for Roo-approved clothing!

I am still struggling to find a good source of ethical fabrics. The look does still matter, as long as I have a 9 to 5 job (that'll be for the next 20 years then...) so for now I am opting for "natural" as my baseline.  I will not be weaving my homegrown nettles just yet .

Which takes me back to the style question...

I like:
Wide-legged trousers
Short skirts
Simple tunics
Vintage blouses (especially back-buttoned)
Striking details (collars, pin-tucks, buttons, lace, bows - just not all at once!)
High waist-lines
Neat-fitting knitwear
A touch of fun
That all sounds do-able!
And... you know what?  I am giving up the High Street.  Right now.

The Roobeedoo Manifesto:
I hereby undertake to make all my own clothing
or purchase it from ethically-minded independent designers.
For now.  For always.