Friday, March 30, 2012

Confession: I ALMOST bought a Cardigan

This was not supposed to happen.
But in the interests of honesty, I feel the need to confess.
I bought a ready-to-wear cardigan.
It was 80% lambswool, 20% nylon.  It was in the sale at John Lewis website.  It wasWhite Stuff brand.

It was yellow.
The stitch pattern was similar to Bettie's Pullover.
It would have taken me at least three months to knit at a similar cost.

And I convinced myself that I couldn't wait three months for a summery alternative to Audrey in Unst / my navy blue Boden boyfriend cardigan.  My old Gap teal cardigan has an unmendable ladder up the sleeve and is now consigned to gardening duty.  I don't think owning three fit-for-work cardigans is excessive.

BUT... when it arrived, I subjected it to close examination.  I wanted to be sure I was breaking my handmade pledge in a good cause.

The first thing I noticed was a cardboard swing ticket which said "I am prone to pilling".  How incredibly honest!  I turned the ticket over and it explained that because the garment was made of soft wool, it would bobble when worn and must be washed in cool water with extreme care... but not to worry because this was "normal".  Now, I DO understand that this is a property of soft fluffy wool, but my cynical brain told me that what this REALLY meant was I would have no grounds to complain if my cardigan fell apart after a few weeks of wear - I had been warned that it was delicate!

I checked the inside label, and it was "Made in China".  Of course it was.  It led me to check the Corporate Social Responsibility section of their website, to see if they had a commitment to fairwages / working conditions in their factories.  And for all the fluffy words, I am none the wiser.  Here is what the website says:

being white stuff

(or creating) ‘happiness in every stitch’

The vision - what we believe:  By being different, and making a difference, we’ll make the world a little happier.

The vision - how does it all add up?  By being different, (with our unique product and personality)
and making a difference, (by being good neighbours to our people & the planet) we’ll make the world a little happier.

(creating ‘happiness in every stitch’)

The mission - how will we get there?

We will dress lovely people and their homes with all things bright and beautiful.

Our irreverent sense of humour can be found in everything we do and say - that’s because we want
to make people smile.

We value people above all else - our customers, our staff and anyone who works with us. We want to make people proud to be part of the White Stuff family.

We also want to make a difference in our local communities and across the wider planet. We want to give something back. Together, we’ll make the world a little happier.

Our promise - how will we deliver our brand?

We promise to 'stand out up close’ every time we deliver our brand.
Our product, our shops, our service and our people should all ‘stand out up close’.

Our DNA - what is our brand made of?
We don’t think there's any point in doing something in life if it doesn't make you happy.

Another way of saying we don’t do ‘the usual’.
We go out of our way to make people smile.

We don’t make suits, we don’t wear suits and we don’t act like suits. You shouldn't have to either.

We always go the distance to make something special. When it comes to details, we are bothered.

We treat people the way we want to be treated ourselves.

Does anyone know what any of that really means?  I would like to interpret all that as meaning they are a fairtrade, fairwage, organically-grown company, but they don't come right out and say so - and don't you think they would if they were?  I could write to the company and ask them - but it shouldn't be necessary.  Plain English please, people!

The only concrete evidence of  ethical business practices I can find is their commitment to give 1% of their profits to their "Foundation", which is described in as follows:
 The Foundation supports disadvantaged children and young people in our local communities. All White Stuff shops are partnered with their own local charity. The Foundation gives regular grants to these charities, in addition to funds raised by our staff and customers

And that's great!  There are more details on the site.  But is this 1% gesture sufficient for me to break my pledge to eschew the High Street?

Back to the garment itself:  I liked the stitch pattern.  I liked the colour.  I would have had to replace the buttons as they looked as if the dog has been chewing them (they were kind of wooden with texture).  But my main problem with the garment was the unfinished neck edge.  It stretched out a little further every time I tried it on (about three times).  I would have had to back it with ribbon or bias tape to give it stability.  The sleeves were a bit too short to be long and too long to be 3/4 length.  The side seams were sewn inside out, presumably as a design feature to emphasise the squareness of the body.

In summary?  It wasn't perfect.  If I had made it myself I wouldn't have done it that way.  I would have chosen stronger yarn.  It would have had an i-cord bind off at the neck, longer sleeves, vintage buttons all the way down, and some waist shaping.  The original price of this cardigan was £47.50.  I bought it as  a "sale" item for £29.  I would never have considered paying the original price.  The reduced price was probably reasonable. BUT...

I sent it back for a refund.

Do you understand why?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

In which I drop the ball

Last night I got home from work to find a "final reminder" to renew my car tax disc... which is odd, because I never received a "first reminder".  That'll be my mail going missing again I suppose.  Sigh.

So I tried to ring up to renew it... and was refused because I was told I did not have a valid MoT certificate.
I dug out my paper work, and sure enough, I have been driving for almost a month with an out of date MoT.  Is there no reminder service for those?
Which means my insurance is in-valid. 
Which means I have been driving with no tax, MoT or insurance for almost a month.  I could have been jailed!

So today my dear FL has the job of taking my illegal car for a "while-you-wait" MoT test (fingers crossed it passes!), then on to the Post Office to apply for a tax disc.  Luckily, he is still medium-high on Dexies.  If this had happened a day later, the thought of doing this would have sent him into a flat spin and I would have had to take the day off work to sort it out myself.

Clearly, the man is a superstar.

But what the funk is going on with ME?!

Formerly known by FL as "organisation woman", my home-filing pile is beginning to teeter.  Yesterday at work, I was so confused and tired I had to go for a walk to clear my head.  I hoped to find a coffee, but all the shops were closed.
I haven't been sleeping properly for weeks and it's finally catching up with me.
It's nothing I can put my finger on.  I am just... muddled.

Ullapool,  a place of calm, May 2007

The good news is, we are going on holiday soon.  I am hoping that getting away from it all for a week will help me regain my equilibrium.

We have sold it to The Girl as a Study Retreat.  She has not been on holiday with us for years and this could be our last trip together if she decides to go to London for 6th Form (decision imminent). 

We have booked a cottage near Ullapool.

Ironically, this was the last place we went before FL fell ill.  This time, I had to be sure it has no stairs, allows a dog, and has internet access (for online exam past papers and entertainment purposes!)  All boxes have been ticked.  You see - I can do it if I try!

I will be taking Bettie's Pullover and my Porrti Sukat socks, my Japanese pattern book and drafting paper.  But we hope to get out and about for walks with the dog.  FL hopes for one game of golf, probably on Dexy Day.

With a bit of luck, I'll get my brain back.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hey Girl... I went to the Post Office for you

Sorry - could not resist this Handmade Ryan Gosling Tumblr picture!

I just wanted to throw my twopenny-worth of indignation into the ether concerning the Royal Mail's insane new postal rates. 

60p to post a simple letter?  REALLY?!

It has certainly made me stop to re-think my Etsy shop policies.  I sincerely want to set "true" post and packing charges, as there is nothing more off-putting than sellers who are clearly out to make a profit on shipping.  But I need to get my head around the changes.

It was bad enough when the Royal Mail introduced prices by envelope-dimension rather than just weight.  I had just about got used to the differences between Packets and Large Letters.

Packets have:
Length over 353mm
Width over 250mm
Thickness over 25mm
Weight over 750g

Large Letters have:

Length 353mm max
Width 250mm max
Thickness 25mm max
Weight 750g max

I think I will have to befriend someone in the Post Room and get them to sample-weigh / measure a cross-section of patterns so that I can assess how much they will cost to post to addresses in the UK and overseas.

This is all so bad for small independent businesses (proper ones, I mean, not me - I'm just playing at this!)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sometimes I Read

Portrait of  Man Darning Socks

Well goodness me, it's ages since I blogged about my reading list!

That pile of books did not defeat me after all, and I have been working my way steadily through all those and more.

The ones I read but haven't written about went like this:

The Proof of Love - The summer of '76 in Cumbria.  Remember that summer?  Very very hot, even Up North.  I was reminded of The Go-Between with added hippies.  The main character annoyed me.  The ending was rushed.  But, you know, not bad as a library book (I wouldn't pay for it.)

Spin Cycle - Three women who work in a Glasgow laundrette: their lives, lack of love, and strange obsessions.  Quite disturbing (Certificate 15 sex and violence), highly evocative of its environment and its time (absolutely contemporary).  I could quibble with the likelihood of those characters working in a laundrette and I could complain about the denouement, but I won't.  I liked the appropriate peppering of Scottish expressions through the narrative - not at all alienating, rather stylish.

Alone Together - Nah, not my sort of thing.  People don't speak to each other now we have technology. "Let me experiment with my own child - oh, how interesting my child is." Really?  Nothing startling.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Oh my word.  I almost stopped reading early on, because the death of Grandpa freaked me out.  But I think I may have been having a sensitive day.  The more I read, the more I thought it was a sort of sub-par Harry-Potter meets Sapphire and Steel with Americans trying to do Welsh accents.  BUT... the idea of pinning the story around genuine Victorian photographs of Peculiar People made for compulsive, spooked reading.  Probably more suitable for a Young Adult than an Old Cynic. 
The Age of Shiva - ah, here we are, I thought!  The Good Read! ( I thought.) I read Manil Suri's earlier book, The Death of Vishnu as soon as it was published, and was waiting for this for far too long, and somehow missed its publication.  I love the flow of the writing, the immersion in a culture that it isn't my own, and the absolute humanity of the characters.  I was taking my time with this one...  until suddenly I had had enough.  That uncomfortable-to-read tribute to breast-feeding at the beginning is revisited as the child gets older, and I suddenly thought: "I don't like the way this is heading.  I don't trust this author enough to keep reading.  Anything could happen..."  So I stopped.  I'm a sensitive soul.  And something else?  It was a library book and it was full of debris:  hairs, crumbs, dead insects.  Ugh.  It put me right off.

Green is The New Black -  a "dipper" (as in: you can dip in and out of it and not miss anything).  A guide to ethical living, mostly fashion-based.  Worth borrowing from your library, with lots of UK ethical resources I had never heard of, but mostly out of my price range.  Excellent run-down on where to find the best charity shops.  Peppered with celebrity anecdotes which were more interesting than I expected (not having heard of most of them!)

Also read:  The Enduring Melody by Michael Mayne.  Look, I was reading it to find out what it was like to have cancer of the jaw.  I didn't expect it to be fun.  It wasn't.  Very "Radio 4".  I was glad to finish it.

Reading now?:  a Biography of Sylvia Townsend Warner by Claire Harman.

P.S.  Gratuitous photo of FL for no reason other than to prove that he does, in fact, darn his own socks!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Completely Kawaii in April

Look!  I have new toys!

My copy of Female 2012 arrived from Japan (via another farm with a similar address!) and confirmed my suspicion that not all of the patterns are pre-drafted on the familiar trace-it-yourself roadmap... some have to be drafted from scratch, using the drawings and measurements provided - gulp!

And, of course, the styles I like best fall into that category.
But since I actually have plenty to wear, there is absolutely no need for me to mass-produce item after item at high speed.  In fact, it would be entirely sensible to approach my sewing in the same way that I approach my knitting:  with the expectation that it takes a while to make a full-sized garment.
So I have decided to spend April exploring my new pattern book.  I bought some drafting paper, and a souped-up French Curve / Ruler / Grading Template-thingy called the  Shoben Fashion Curve.  I suspect I was sucked in by the hype, and that a simple ruler and a french curve would have been enough... but you know how it is.  I wanted the shiny plastic fashion-student-y gadget so that I could play at being A Fashion Designer.  Shrug.
Female Spring 2012
I am joining Melanie Testa in her Japanese pattern sewalong.  Everyone taking part will be making something different but the principles remain the same, and it will be great to have support when if it all goes pear-shaped.

Watching what Melanie has been doing with one of the Female Spring 2012 patterns has definitely inspired me to do more than just join the dots and sew the seams together!

What am I going to make?  Well, I really love the shape of this button-through shirt or dress.  This is one of those "get out your ruler" styles, designed by the Japanese brand Neverland

You can buy it ready-made for big Yen.  I LOVE the tie-knot styling!  Ties as jewellery! I might have to have a go at that with a charity-shop tie or two... sadly FL doesn't have a stash of old ties I can plunder!

DIY or Ready-made:  image on right from Neverland jp website
I might make it with long sleeves.

I hope I have enough white dobby dot left in the stash to make this a "free" project.

Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan
But I might start with something simpler.  There is a very 80s-influenced square-cut t-shirt which appeals to my nostalgic side.

 Very "Desperately Seeking Susan"!

Oh how I loved that look!

Yes - I did have that hairstyleWhat of it?

I will have to buy some knit fabric to make this one.  It might be fluorescent yellow sweatshirting... just saying :D
Fluro Yellow anyone?
The more time I spend with this pattern book, the more excited I become!
I want to make the big shirt that Melanie is making.

I am intrigued by a billowing batwing blouse - I might persuade The Girl that she wants one of these!
And the variations on a double-layered blouse / dress with a Peter Pan collar had me rummaging in the stash for some semi-transparent voile I bought a while back from Ditto. With a lace over-layer it could actually be wearable!

This book is blowing such a breath of fresh air through my fabric stash - so many possibilities!
And a month set aside to explore them?  That sounds like a plan!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Too Much of a Good Thing

Today, I accomplished the things I set out to do last weekend:  I painted the windowsills;  I dead-wooded the herb garden; and I threw my clothes onto the bed for cross-examination.  My winter woolies were washed and if they ever dry they will be packed away clean and moth-free.
Then I opened the wardrobe storage drawer to perform the seasonal switchover.  Oh yay!  My white hooded t-shirt!  My  Pioneer sweater!  My ultraviolet Ginger!  But... hang on a minute... what's that other bag?  The really big one?  Oh my word - what a lot of clothes I've got!

I stood there for a minute, and took it in.  Maybe... just maybe my mother is not wrong.  She can't be right... but she is not actually wrong.  All that sewing I do has led to me having rather a lot of garments.  My usual retort to Grandma is that "Those are the only clothes I have!"  and that: "Some people go shopping every week and buy several items... I just make one thing a week, and not even every week!"

But after a few years of sewing... it adds up.  So I decided to be completely honest with myself and go through the heap item by item.

Do I like every single garment?  Answer:  NO.

Sandpiper Blouse

The Vicar's Wife Blouse
Which things don't I like?  And this was where it got really really interesting, because almost without exception, the unhappy items were the "doubles":

  • I love my Sandpiper Blouse but I don't love its sibling, the Vicar's Wife Blouse.  Too prissy.
  • My navy Eva Dress trousers are probably my favourite-est ever trousers... and yet the caramel pair made in the same size are too saggy-bottomed and drag me down.  FL thinks they are awful.  And he never audibly dislikes my sewing endeavours.
  • My purple dobby dot Simplicity 2501 blouse was worn to death until one wash too many left it bleached-out and limp... but Mark Two in black dobby dot with insane puffy sleeves is rarely worn... and has now been donated to The Girl's wannabe-steampunk collection!
  • My blue rose Liberty Sencha is my go-to Posh Meeting blouse, but the dark green Liberty Sencha is a poor relation, for no reason that I can identify.  It's...boring?
Sencha Number One
Sencha Number Two

And this, my friends, is why I have not joined in with this week's hot sewing sensation:  "One Week One Pattern".  I could easily have thrown my hat in the ring with the Ginger skirt pattern:  three times made and three times happy - woo hoo!  Or the Portfolio pattern:  a dress, a tunic and a blouse. Or even my Betsey Johnson 70's trouser pattern: made in sober pinstripes and insane pink cord?  Pattern Runway Shorts in chino fabric and purple velvet?  But the reason these multiple-makes have been successful is that they have been significantly different each time.

Ginger has been made with all three waistband options in cord, wool and a mad print.
My three Portfolio makes are barely recognisable as the same pattern:  a denim tunic, a print dress and a white dobby dot blouse.

But when I have sewn a "repeat" which is too similar to the first make, it seems to be doomed to languish in the back of the wardrobe.

And now that I think of it, on the three occasions in the past when I bought the same "perfect" shoes in two different colours, there was always one pair that I hardly wore.  Somehow, attempting to exploit the "ideal" took its shine away.

I couldn't decide which colour
So I didn't buy either pair
When I was younger and had a much smaller wardrobe, I tended towards a "uniform".  There was a point in my life when I was either wearing a man's navy lambswool sweater with a denim skirt, or the same navy sweater with purple cord jeans.  There would have been t shirts underneath and I must have washed that sweater from time to time, but I am certain I wore it for weeks on end.  And I was content.  It was warm and comfortable, it suited me, and it was what I wore.

I can't see myself ever embracing such minimalism again, but I do think that I need to stop making multiples.  If that blouse is perfect, I should wear it and enjoy it, and when it falls apart, consider making another one.  But I don't need them both right now!

So I bagged up the evil twins and put them back in the storage drawer.  I will wear the happy versions.  I won't fret about the unworn not-quite-duplicates, because they will be out of sight.  And I will remember this:  too much of a good thing is too much for me.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Don't Panic - it's only Summer!

That glowing orb in the sky is apparently the SUN and rumour has it that we change the clocks this weekend.

I am not ready for this.

This weekend, I need to empty my wardrobe onto the bed ... again.  How can the seasonal switchover have come round so fast?  This is NOT like last year!

I was wearing my winter coat, wool scarf and mittens on Wednesday when I met a group of teens in mini skirts and vest tops.  There was some sniggering.  I suppose it could have been worse, but for once I agreed with their point of view - it was actually WARM in Aberdeen!

The Girl is having a similar panic.  What does she wear in summer?  Especially if she won't be wearing a school uniform again after next week - OMG!  NEXT WEEK!  Study leave and exams are almost upon us. 

I have offered to make her some clothes but she is understandably cagey.  Her style is not the same as mine.  And it can be so hard to look at a pattern, choose fabric and visualise the final garment - I should know!

What to make?  What to wear?

Meanwhile... I spotted this suspender skirt pattern on Etsy.  The red one.  So cute!  I love the dropped-pocket-flaps feature!  For me or The Girl?  Um... probably me.  I can see it in a duck-egg blue herringbone linen or a heavy red cotton twill.  But I can imagine she might like it in black... maybe?  Hmmm.  I may have to park my principals and take her shopping.

Or else... I suppose I could...

Oh - and Paula?  I found something by the same designer that you might like to make for Buddy!  ; )

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

FO: The "Is This a Turkey?" Gingham Blouse

Doris Day and friend
I have seen so many great uses of gingham across sewing-blogland.  Jane and Scruffybadger spring to mind.
Note that both those ladies used navy and white check gingham, emphatically not pink.  But I was using up leftover fabric from the stash.  That's it all gone now.  Phew!

Love Hearts Candy Blouse from 2010
Here's a reminder of Pink Gingham Mark One, the 1940s pattern Love Hearts Candy Blouse:  puffy sleeves, puffy body, too short, a collar that knocks my earrings out.
In its favour?  I like the buttons.  It looks OK with a cardigan on top and is just long enough to tuck into the waistband of my Eva Dress 1940's trousers.

So, what have I done with my fabric this time?

Oh look!  It's another pink puff-ball blouse!
"Out" with Japanese pattern trousers

"In" with 1940s Eva Dress pattern trousers
Pattern:  Simplicity 5441 from 1964, size 14 (34 inch bust)
Fabric:  Gingham from the depths of the stash, bought to make a dress for my daughter when she was still young enough to wear pink... so probably ten years ago.  Price unknown.
White waffle shirting from Croftmill for the collar, £4 per metre.

A bit of a stinker.  I wrote Part One on Sunday

I think the collar fabric was a bad match for the lightweight gingham, especially once interfaced.  The waffle shirting has a lovely crisp finish, but its weight overwhelmed the soft gingham, which kept getting caught up in odd folds and puckers in the most unexpected places.

In particular, the neck facing was a ruffled mess, requiring painstaking unpicking and re-stitching despite careful pinning.  I was so distracted by the issues at the front neck that I misunderstood the instructions for the back and sewed the edge of the buttonbands flush with the collar edge - wrong!

Back view with a brooch to fasten neck
However, when I tried it on, I realised I could get it over my head while pinned all the way up, so I decided  to stitch the back as a seam, rather than a functional opening, leaving just a couple of inches at the top, with a hook and eye at the back of the collar.
Of course, the reason I can get it over my head is that it is really rather big.  I took it in by about an inch on each side and it is definitely better now.
Eight darts have to release their fabric somewhere, and in this case it all comes puffing out around the bust / middle back.   This is a phenomenon I have grown accustomed to with my Sencha blouses... and I accept that they have to be tucked in.  However, I had been hoping this would be an "overblouse".  Nope.  It does absolutely nothing for me left loose.  I look like a big pink puffy top-heavy marshmallow.  And considering I only have a 32 inch chest, that's pretty impressive.
"In" with Simplicity 2654 shorts
But tucked in?  Yes, I concede it is wearable.  My original plan was to add short sleeves, but that would only have added to the general impression of upper-body inflation, so I ran a line of white bias binding round the arm openings instead.  I was definitely NOT in the market for another fight with facings.


Well, you know, I will wear it.  But it is not going to fill the wardrobe gap I identified for tops to wear "out" over narrow trousers, for that Audrey-esque silhouette.  Unless I add a cardigan or a little jacket...  and actually, that's the most likely scenario in this climate.

As for its pinkness, maybe I need to toughen it up a bit with some sugar-free accessories.  Maybe add a black bow at the centre of the collar?  A lariat?  A pistol?  A chicken under each arm?  A sleeve tattoo? Any other ideas?
I think I've had enough of sewing with pink gingham.

But more to the point, will I use this pattern again?  This was supposed to be a "muslin" after all.
It was an awful lot of work for something so simple-looking.  Really, there's not much more to it style-wise than the Sorbetto and some people run those up in an hour or so. 

And there's a reason I have never made a Sorbetto.  I am uncomfortable with a shape that draws so much attention to my bust without hinting at a waist.  This pattern has not one but two set of darts pointing at my chest, and I feel like I am advertising uplifting underwear.  And yet, I could eat pie and chips for every meal for a month and you would be none the wiser.  There is acres of space around the tummy region.
This is a pattern to flatter a girl with a full bust and no waist.  I have a small bust and a defined waist. 

Am I complaining that it is "too vintage"?  Maybe that's my problem.  Evelyn left a comment to that effect the other day.  I look at that photo of Doris Day and her turkey and I want to pull her blouse down a bit, to stop it blossoming out so far in front.  Oh dear!  Maybe this is just not my era!  Or I am more of an Audrey than a Doris?  Would I have saved myself a lot of trouble by drawing a croquis and analysing the pattern construction before I started?

The biggest irony of all is that I only decided to make this pattern as a practice-run for a similar Simplicity pattern from the same period, 7457.  And my copy is sized to fit a 36 inch bust:  even bigger!

But it does have fewer darts.  And I know that it will require grading down at least 3 inches before I even get so far as to cut out the fabric, so I will be less likely to just wing it. 

So... it could be said that the two projects have very little in common after all.
And I will probably need to make a muslin of the 7457.

What was I thinking?!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Not all to Plan

So much for plans.  The weekend was bright and sunny but don't let that calm picture fool you - there was an icy wind sweeping across the valley, so I didn't fancy spending much time outdoors.  No gardening.

I made a start on building my Etsy shop, but it took an hour  to list just four patterns.  I plan to open with a stock of twenty items, and top it up once a week.... so don't hold your breath.   I may be some time. How frustrating!
After our big adventure in the city yesterday, FL was too tired to eat out.  He snoozed while I knitted.

Today, realising he was going to spend the day asleep in his chair, I thought I might as well sew something until The Girl came home.  I set to work with a vintage blouse pattern from 1964 and some leftover pink gingham from the stash.  The aim was / is to make a wearable muslin, before busting out my shiny new fabric. 

Just as well I took this precaution.  It is NOT going to plan!

I am making View 4 of Simplicity 5441, the pink pointy-collar version.  There were hazard warning lights early on when I realised how many darts I had to negotiate:  waist, bust, shoulders, back and front, they are all over the place.

The previous owner felt the need to narrow the shoulder and I agreed, but even so there is some hang-over.  There was also some awkward nonsense with the front facings which sit behind the collar.  I sorted them out, but there was worse to come.
It is all very messy at the back.  Somehow, I managed to lose the overlap at the back of the neck, where the buttonband begins.  My collar sits flush with the edge of the facing.  I may have to zip it instead of back-buttoning.
But when I tried it on, my main impression was of baggyness and saggyness.  The flipping thing just doesn't fit.  At all.
I have put it away in disgrace.
Either I attack it with the scissors and lose a few inches all over, or it's into the bucket (dustbin / trash can) with it.  Grrr.
I suppose I was due a wadder.
But I haven't given up yet...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Without Darkness, Light has No Meaning

"Saturday Morning"
Up at 7, took photographs of patterns for my Etsy shop, dropped The Girl at the station, drove into the city.

FL and I went to the art exhibition as planned... except they were starting to pack away the paintings.  It was only noon on the final day, but as all the exhibits had sold, the gallery's work was done and they were ready to move on. 

But... the Lady Artist herself was there.  FL introduced himself and was remembered... but... astonishingly, it was me she remembered best. "You wrote about the Albigensian Heresy", she said.  I started to disagree, saying that she must be thinking of someone else, and then suddenly it all came flooding back:  my English dissertation.  How many years ago now?  1982.  Oh my.  30 years ago.  30 years ago.  And this 81-year-old lady remembered that I was the girl who wrote it... when I had almost forgotten about it myself. Crikey!

"The Avenue"
"Ladies in Tuscany"
And I thought about the precocious girl I must have been then.  And that FL and I were there together then and are here together now...

and got to thinking about the Lady Artist and how she will remember me now.

Oh my!

Friday, March 16, 2012

This Weekend...

This weekend, I am giving my sewing machine a rest to do some organising.

I will:
  • stock my Etsy shop with pre-loved sewing patterns.  I'll let you know when it goes live!
  • have another clutter-clearance of my wardrobe
  • cull the fabric stash
  • paint a couple of window-sills  (not all of them - I don't have enough paint!)
  • survey the herb garden to assess the weeding situation
And because The Girl is off to visit her Big Brother at Uni (he is under strict instructions not to lead her astray), FL and I are having a hot date at a local gallery, where an old colleague is exhibiting her paintings.  If his energy allows, we might stay out for tea, but it is more likely that we will return home for some quality sofa time.  I will knit some more of Bettie's Pullover and he will snooze.

And I definitely won't be downloading any new knitting patterns from Jared Flood's Spring Thaw Collection, because that would be ridiculous, wouldn't it?


All 4 photos from the Spring Thaw Collection:  cables, lace, colourwork - something for everyone!  And every single one of them made of gorgeously sheepy yarn - sigh!
Speaking of yarn... surely you didn't think I had got over my lemon and lime addiction that quickly?  Skein Queen Exquisite from Thursday evening's update.  80% superwash merino 10% cashmere 10% nylon. 4 ply sock weight. 100g. Approx. 400m.
The word is "oops"!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

FO: Loopy Lemons Scarf

This is what happens when I am seized by an obsession:  I move fast!

Last week I was in search of the perfect colour of lemon... which turned out to be lime.  I failed to source matching fabric, but I found yarn which captured the essence of that colour:  "Refreshers" sweet-colour, as a couple of commenters suggested.
 As luck would have it, the latest issue of Knit Now (Issue 6) includes a pattern for a super-chunky scarflet. 
The perfect match!  It would be great for a pencil-roving or handspun yarn.
There's only one problem... this colour is really difficult to photograph!
Sunlight swallows the stitch pattern.
Shade disguises the colour.

Here's all you need to know:

It is a lemon / lime sorbet of a great big soft scarf.  Those loops are formed by deliberately dropping a stitch and unravelling it - ooh!  The heart-stopping excitement!

It took two evenings to knit.

It cost £4.50 to make (Sirdar Big Softie from Knit and Sew, 3 balls  @ £1.50 per ball)  This is the colour "Souffle". 
I love it!  :D

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Longing to be an Ethics Girl

Probably the most powerful consumer choice I have made recently is NOT to buy things.

So far this year, my only clothing-related High Street (online) purchase has been a scarf from Uniqlo's Laura Ashley collaboration, pictured in this post.  A small percentage of the proceeds went to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  I would love to tell you that I knew this before I pressed "Purchase", but I didn't.  It was a moment of blind consumerism, which turned out to have ethical credentials - lucky fluke, eh?!

I have been reading a lot about ethics and fashion in recent weeks.  I am particularly enjoying the intelligent analysis to be found over at Empty Emptor.

Just this morning, FL commented on how I may not be buying clothes but I was certainly accumulating stuff.  He didn't mean it as a criticism, and let's face it, he has no room to talk about hoarding in light of his newsprint addiction, but it brought me up short.  I don't enjoy the heavy feeling that having too many possessions induces.  Time for another paring-down session I think.

That Etsy pattern shop is on its way!

I also intend to cull my fabric stash.  Why am I holding on to fabric that I don't love?  I may eventually sew it up into clothes I don't like... and then what?  What a waste of energy!

I have been operating on a principle of "one out, one in" in terms of books.  I recently sold a dud knitting book and purchased a Japanese sewing book to take its place. That feels OK:  a balanced approach.

Ali recently wrote about her own feelings of guilt and the desire to live with less, here.   I commented that I needed to think more about "longing".  Ali viewed "longing" as a negative concept, and this startled me.  "Longing" is such a wonderfully evocative word, conjuring images of a Victorian heroine.  Lucy Snowe in Villette comes to mind.  For me, "longing"  has connotations of secret love, repressed aspirations, and inner fire.  It is about building up inspiration and imaginative resources in the face of adversity, so that one day, I will be ready to... be myself, to seize the day.

But perhaps I ought to be seizing the day right now!  I could be ME... now! Really?!

Meanwhile, I found another source of ethical fabrics.  Go and have a look.  I am thinking.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

FO: Lisette Portfolio Trousers / Pants, Simplicity 2245

Pattern:  Simplicity 2245, Lisette Portfolio, size 8

Fabric:  Gurteen stretch cotton mix from Croft Mill, here, £5.50 per metre.  I bought 2.5 m and used just over half of it.
It's 98% cotton 2% lycra and is described on the website as:  "woven in dark and pale grey yarns giving a lightly marled appearance to the surface, it's about the weight of a moleskin and in fact been sanded or peached finish to give it almost a moleskin feel". I'd agree with that!

Other:  Grey 7 inch zip, thread (both from stash).

Process:  This was a really speedy project.  I have had this fabric in the stash for several months, and wasn't sure what to do with it.  I was expecting something drapier, but it is almost a stretch denim in weight and behaviour.

Last weekend, I was all set to cut out the Audrey-esque Japanese-pattern trousers I previously made in black stretch cotton sateen.  These ones.  I wear them at least once a week, but to be honest they look a bit saggy-bottomed by the end of the day:  the stretch has no recovery and I suspect they are too big.  So I put the pattern away again.

I like the look of the Colette Clover pattern, but the level of "fitting" which they seem to inspire in so many sew-ists puts me off. 

Then I remembered the Portfolio pants pattern.

I decided to make a size 8, rather than the 10 that my measurements indicated.  This strategy has been paying off recently with Simplicity Lisette patterns.
I thought the stretch in the fabric would give me a bit of lee-way, and to be honest there was so little difference between sizes in the paper pattern, I reckoned I could adjust the seam width if need be.
I started sewing at 10.30am.
By lunch-time, I was inserting the zip.
ETA:  I didn't put the tabs on as I thought they would look too fussy.
I got so carried away with the ease of stitching that I forgot to try them on until they were done - oops!
They are very nearly perfect.
I like the way they look from the front and the side views.
However, there is absolutely no possibility of tucking anything in at the waist.  They fit me like jeans.

And the back view?

Ah yes... there's the issue!  Quite apart from the fact that I didn't iron my blouse or do up all the buttons, there is a definite hint of VPL.

They are a trifle snug.

Lucky it's stretch fabric with a double row of stitching on that back seam!

However, I am really pleased with the overall shape.

And I still have enough fabric left to make another pair!

Next time, I am going for size 10 and I am going to use the fabric the other way out, which looks like black denim.


I am almost certain I will be able to wear them to work and that they will have enough "give" not to cut off my circulation when I sit down. 

Yes, you do sense some reservations!  I suppose I am so accustomed to wearing wide-legged trousers that a jeans-type fit comes as a surprise.  OK I admit it:  they are slightly too tight. 

So very nearly perfect!  Sigh.

Friday, March 09, 2012

When a Lemon is a Lime called Miriam

You probably already know this about me:  I have an obsessive streak.
This week, I have mostly been obsessing about a cotton ribbed sweater, the colour of a sharp zesty lemon sorbet.
I spotted it on a style blog that I have never visited before or since, but saved the picture.  If you know where I saw this, please let me know!

Lola from Victory patterns

I have spent far too much time trying to source a similar colour of sweatshirt-fabric to make myself a great big neon-bright tunic / dress for homewear.

To be honest, I am probably thinking of the Lola pattern.  Ali's version has fixed it in my head and it won't be shaken out.

Now, I do have a history of making clothes in bright colours.
I have even been known to wear them afterwards!

But a hi-viz road-sweeper-yellow dress?  That's pushing it, even for me.

I was looking for fabric in the coldest possible shade of yellow.  A frozen lemon caught in north light, absolutely ice-sharp and uncompromising.  Could I find it?  Nope!  I searched: lemon, yellow, sorbet, citron...
OK, kids, get out your paint palette.  What colour do you mix in to make a colour colder?  Blue, miss!

And what do you get if you mix blue into yellow, kids?  Green, miss!

Exhibit A:  the Boat-Neck Jumper from Cos. Colour?  Lime Green! 
Not yellow.

My LEMON is actually a LIME.

And how did I find out?  Well... I may have forgotten the source of the photo, but I at least had the sense to label it "Cos Sweater"... and only just now thought to check their website for more info.

It is 100% cotton, in a gorgeous chunky fisherman's rib.

And that colour, that COLOUR  is like nothing I have seen before.  It is, to my sunlight-starved brain, the repository of all that is perfect about spring-time.

Sometimes I think I must have borderline synaethesia.

This is the colour of the name "Miriam":  it shimmers and dances across my imagination with such clarity, to the accompaniment of a solo flute and a blast of freshness like stepping under a cold shower on a hot sunny day.  It is like drinking a glass of chilled white wine while squinting at a book in the shade of a tree.  And I swear I have not been drinking.

I can't buy the sweater... that sign I thought was a Euro is actually a GB Pound.  I may be obsessed but I am not insane.  But at least I now know what colour it is!

Which helped me find this fabric, which isn't quite perfect, but it's heading in the right direction... and it's organic!  Still pondering...

But it also led me to scour the interwebs for yarn... and as luck would have it I was also having a simultaneous pang for a scarf pattern in the latest Knit Now - a tiny little scarflet knit in Sirdar superchunky yarn.

I don't tend to get on well with Sirdar (it's a family  problem - my mother always knit Patons not Sirdar, just as she would only buy Clarks childrens' shoes and not StartRite), but when I came across Big Softie, in the colourway "Souffle"...  sold!

Look!  It's my colour!!!

So watch this space... there's a quick knit on the way :D

And now perhaps I can stop lusting after impossibly expensive knitwear.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Bettie's Pullover and other knitterly ideas

This is what I am knitting.
Bettie's Pullover from Interweave Knits Winter 2011.  I am using AlbaYarn in Moody Blue.

My camera cannot "see" this shade of blue, so I have borrowed The Girl's Panasonic, which at least can pick out the stitches.

You will have to take my word for it, that this is a very dark purplish blue with flashes of magenta in strong sunlight.
I have reached the waist shaping, which is done by changing needle sizes, down and then up again.

I have memorised the stitch pattern so this has turned out to be my "easy" knitting project, and the Portti Sukat Socks are in hibernation.

It is a very stretchy pattern, so size 34 is exactly that, unstretched.  It feels enormous after Betty Jean!

Picture from SkeinQueen website
I have lots of other knitting plans buzzing round my head at the moment.  The impending arrival of the latest Knit Now magazine led to an impulsive kit purchase from SkeinQueen, to make the Bunty Mitts on the cover.

The kit also comes in a naked / cranberry / moss colourway... but you know how I feel about orange!

It's very Orla Kiely, don't you think?

Oh - and owl-fans?  Check out the SkeinQueen's owl-shaped needle gauges! Whoot!

I am trying really hard not to cast on another shawl.  But you know how it is...!  I have some gorgeous grey merino/silk mix in the stash which would make a fantastic Grey Gardens Shawl.  I might save that project for the Easter holidays.