Friday, May 30, 2014

FO: The Brown Socks of Doomy Doom Doom

Let me just clarify:  I LOVE knitting socks.
Sock-knitting is one of my favourite activities.
But this pair almost sucked every last ounce of joy out of the process.
 It was the yarn that did it.
This is Schoppel Wolle Boots Strange:  44% wool, 14% nylon and 42% mercerised cotton.
In my imagination, this was going to be a lovely summer-friendly soft yarn to soothe FL's sore feet and legs in warm weather.
In reality, it is as rough as the barkcloth it reminded me of.
I have learned that the texture of my materials really matters to me.  I lost patience with these socks pretty early on, but by the time I admitted it, I was committed to these being FL's birthday socks and time was running out.
Oh dear.
The final indignity was running out of yarn on toe 2.
I had to knit it "row about" with some leftover Knitting Goddess sock wool - ah bliss!  Softness!  I remember you well!
My bodge job looks OK - it's the sock on the left.
They are the Hector pattern by Rachel Coopey - he loves his first pair.
So... I have finished them.
They probably fit.
And I WILL gift them to my love on his birthday.
But I won't be surprised if they sift themselves to the back of the sock drawer, unworn.
Oh bottoms.
They just aren't good enough.
Deep breath...
I have 14 days before his birthday... ready, steady.... go?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

FO: Strawberry Sundae Afternoon Blouse

Stats:
Pattern:  Jennifer Lauren Vintage Afternoon Blouse, size 8
Fabric:  1.5m strawberry / dot print cotton from CroftMill at £5.95 per metre
Other:  Vintage red buttons from Handmade Jane, previously sewn onto my smart wool shorts... until they shrank in the wash (sob!); some black and white gingham bias binding to face the hem - totally unnecessary but I wanted to do it anyway :)

Process:
I bought this pattern the day it was released - it looked so wearably vintage and easy to make.  I imagined making a whole rail of summer blouses in different fabrics.
However, when I realised there were substantial facings which overlapped at the front, I was stopped in my tracks.  I was worried that once interfaced they would be too starchy in midweight cotton and would shine through voile.
And then I saw Karen's version (ha ha ha she just made another one - snap!) and Jane's, and ordered this fabric, in the hope that I could make it work.
And then I got distracted.


This weekend I wanted a quick win.  I wasn't feeling particularly energetic, but I knew I would feel better if I sewed something.  So I did.
I decided NOT to interface the fronts - gasp!
This cotton is substantial enough to get away with it.  There wouldn't have been interfacing in a genuine 1940's blouse after all.
The instructions are very clear and lead to a high standard of finish.
My only issue was with the front neck.  The instructions show the pointy-fronted version and I hesitated to translate the stitching diagram to the curved version.  In the end I did my own thing, and I got away with it, but its not completely perfect.  If I make it again, I will do more to ensure everything lines up at the top of the centre front seam - maybe a tailor's tack?
The button feature is entirely decorative, so I stitched my fronts together to hold everything in place, running the line of stitching right round the neck edges.
I used three buttons instead of just one, as one was looking very lonely.  I thought that placing them on the diagonal  was in-keeping with the kimono sleeve styling.
Verdict?
Much much better than expected!
It was looking pretty shapeless until I put it on.
Once there's a body inside, the subtle curves of the cut really come alive.
Unlike a lot of simple undarted tops, it has a gently curved hem and isn't completely "straight up and down".
The kimono sleeve looks tiny when laid flat, but just right when worn.
There is slightly more flare at the hip than I need but that is because I have a flat bottom.  It would be easily adjusted.
I was wary of straying into pastiche rockabilly territory with this fabric but I think it is cute without being "cutesy".
FL said he thought the fabric was something his granny would have used to make a housecoat... but that it looks lovely on me.
Ah, flattery will get you anywhere, my dear!
I definitely prefer it worn tucked into a swishy skirt (this is my mustard linen Chardon).
Will I make another?  It seems likely!  I rather fancy a Liberty lawn...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Me Made May Week Three, Harebells and Health

I can't talk about this week until I show you the harebells.
These are what I can see from the kitchen sink when I am doing the washing up.
Everything is incredibly lush and green at the moment.
Sometimes (often) I can't believe I live here.

To all intents and purposes this is my back garden... but you couldn't sit out here.  It is almost always windswept or damp or both.
Anyway... Me Made May Week Three found me at home more than usual.  FL was in a lot of pain and couldn't get around without my help.  I had to learn how to lift him.  And we did the conga to get from the bedroom to the toilet.  We take our fun where we can find it.
So my "outfits" were irrelevant.
I wore my Deer and Doe Plantain tee and my repurposed linen knit hoodie with jeans.


And I wore my Portfolio dress with jeans.
Yawn.
Here - have some more greenery.

We were back at the hospital on Tuesday.  The Consultant authorised another month of Pomalidomide, even though FL's white cell count plummeted to 0.6 at one point.  They have decided they need to see him once a week from now on.
I made it back to work on Wednesday.
I wore my new favourite combination of Portfolio top and Peggy-esque skirt, with Boden cardi and Silly Old Suitcase beads.  The same as I wore twice before this month  - cos if it works, don't fix it!
I gathered the energy to try out a new outfit on Thursday.  This is my Simplicity pattern 1388 sleeveless top with watermelon linen Chardon skirt... and the Boden cardigan again.  Despite what the face seems to indicate, I liked wearing this  :)
Hey look - it's almost the weekend again - yay!  Sewing time!!!!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

I Stitch Therefore I Am

Time for a catch up on my knitting and crochet.
The Mystery Crochet Blanket is growing fast!
The stripes I am working on right now are easily memorised, so I am capable of going into autopilot from one corner to the next - perfect late night / early morning stress relief crafting.
I love the look of the corner in that pale blue / grey yarn.
Actually, I really enjoyed that whole stripe and had to order extra yarn to make sure it was all one colour.
The book?
FL read a review of "an Everywhere" by Heather Reyes and persuaded me to get a copy.
We knew the author was going through chemo when she wrote it... but it was page 204 before I found out she had myeloma - aaargh!  There is no escape!
It is an interesting book, all about the process and enjoyment of reading, with lots of references to literature in other languages, most of which was new to me.  It inspired me to buy a couple of modern French novels.  I figured that reading them was the logical extension of my recent French sewing adventures.  When the books arrived, I turned them over and understood the blurb straightaway - woo hoo!  But the next day when I sat down to start reading... whoah!  I think I need to get myself a dictionary.

Back to the stitching... oh Roo, what's that on your needles?
Yes, it is my third Vintage Fremont.
I needed some easy Waiting Room knitting.
That photo shows 5 lace segments... I on the 13th now.
What can I say?  I just love this pattern.
This one is in actual laceweight (Posh Yarn from way back when) in the colour "Galeforce".  This was the yarn I was using for my failed Advent Shawl.  This is a much happier project.

If you like that lace wedge pattern, but prefer a more traditional shape, check out Kate Davies's new shawl pattern, A Hap for Harriet.
Gorgeous!  I queued it straightaway.
FL's birthday socks are not inspiring me right now... which isn't a problem yet, but will be soon.  I have less than a month to knit 3/4 of a sock:  eminently do-able, but only if I actually knit them!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Me Made May: Week Two

12 May 2014
The great thing about Me Made May is the excuse to experiment with new outfits.
This was the first time I had worn my voile Camber top. It has been hidden away in my wardrobe, waiting for me to make a simple camisole.  I still haven't done that... but I found a different way to wear it.
12 May 2014
Yay!  It looks fab layered over my indigo Renfrew tee.
The skirt in the picture (Masai black jersey bought in a sale in January 2013) had never been to work before either.  It is so clingy I felt like I had gone to the office in just my tights...  but I was feeling brave that day!
13 May 2014
This is much more like "everyday Roo":  dark denim Kelly skirt with 1940's-pattern South Riding blouse, and my new Boden cardi.  I also wore my yellow "Knitter" badge to the office - heh heh heh!
14 May 2014
Wednesday.  We spent the day at the hospital after FL's white cells plummeted and his recurrent chest infection kicked in  There was some debate about whether or not he could come home, or if he needed intravenous antibiotics in hospital.  After 6 hours in various waiting rooms, he was allowed home with a packet of pills - woo hoo!
14 May 2014
I wore my me-made Betsey Johnson linen skirt for the first time, over leggings and my black Plantain tee.  I remembered how much fun it can be to wear longer swishy skirts :)  It was just so comfortable!
Note the scaffolding in the upper photo:  stage 2 of the double-glazing journey begun two years ago.  This year it is the turn of our front upstairs windows to be replaced - one of these years we will have a full set!

Working at home on Friday, I decided I would wear this skirt again.  The top is organic cotton from Seasalt about ? 3 years ago.
16 May 2014
And from way back last Friday, here is my Deer and Doe Anemone skirt worn with my green Liberty Sencha blouse and that new Boden cardi again.  This was another new combination.  I also dug out my fountain-pen nib earrings to spice things up a bit.
9 May 2014
If anyone has been looking at my feet, they will note my cherry Doc Marten chelsea boots have come out to play most days in May.  I am over high heels.  Seriously, it may be deeply middle-aged of me, but I am ready to Lose the Shoes, a 49 before 50 resolution that I am definitely sticking to:  if they aren't comfortable, they have to go.
The washing line 16 May 2014
 And here is REAL evidence of me-mades in action:  part of the hand knitted sock collection hanging out to dry :)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

FO: Chemisier Berthe from Un Ete Couture

With Pattern Runway Sweet Scalloped Shorts
Stats:
Pattern:  Chemisier Berthe from the book "Un Ete Couture" by Geraldine Debeauvais (La Republique du Chiffon), size small, lengthened by 10cm.
Fabric:  1 metre of 112cm-wide striped cotton poplin.  I bought mine for £5.25 (+ £1.25 postage) from Oh Sew Crafty on ebay, but Croft Mill sells it too (£6.95 per metre + £5.95 postage for a standard parcel -  worth it if you are stocking up the stash with a big order).  The collar and front bands are made of Supersonic white cotton lawn from Croft Mill.  This stuff is £12 per metre but is worth every penny - seriously gorgeous!
Other:  Vintage dark pink buttons from stash (found in a local charity shop for pennies); woven interfacing; thread.
Budgie print ironing board cover from Cath Kidston
Process:
I had planned to use a 1960's pattern with this striped fabric, but I had not realised how narrow it was until it arrived.  The vintage pattern had all-in-one facings which were extensions of the fronts, and I couldn't squeeze it out of my single metre of cloth.
I had seen several lovely versions of the Berthe blouse on French sewing blogs. The original design is a flirty crop-top with a longer back.  Several stitchers were surprised by just how short the front turned out.  I added a full 10cm back and front, in the interests of middle-aged decency.
The only way I could make the pattern fit my fabric was to play with the stripes. I cut the back and one front "sideways" and the final front with the stripes running vertically.
With all that madness going on, I decided to add a plain white collar and front bands.
That white cotton is of such a beautiful quality!  I am looking forward to sewing a whole shirt out of the remainder of my piece. It made the collar construction quite joyful:  creating clean crisp edges, but super-soft to the touch.  It was really easy to trim down the seams for a sharp finish without fear of fraying.
I must praise the designer for the collar instructions and diagrams.  It all fitted together perfectly, despite my fear of tackling a "collar stand" (in French!).
The armholes are finished with self fabric facings. As with the Robe Eleonore, the facing pattern pieces are drawn as part of the main bodice.  It is a good idea to trace them off separately, to avoid confusion if you choose to make the blouse a second time at some future date.  I have written myself a note... but will I remember?

Verdict?
I enjoyed sewing this blouse so much, that its wearability is almost secondary!
It all went together so smoothly, with matching stripes and perfectly-aligned collar and collar-stand - crikey!  It's a miracle!
I definitely needed every centimetre of my front length extension.
Several other stitchers have expressed concern at the absence of bust darts, but the slightly a-line cut works for me without them.
I tend to prefer a short sleeve, rather than no sleeve, and the armhole is a little too deep for me.  I would tweak that if I were to make it again.  But I expect to be wearing a cardigan on top most of the time "in real life"!
Tucked in and buttoned up, with Peggy skirt
In summary?  Another hit from Un Ete Couture!  I can't wait to get going on another pattern from this collection - I'm on a roll!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Me Made May: the first week

6 May 2014
The first week of Me Made May was a weird one with an interview and a Bank Holiday thrown into the mix.
To remind you: I aimed to smarten up my work "look" and to make more use of my me-mades at home.

7 May 2014
Well... the interview confirmed my sneaking suspicion that I don't actually want to be "suited and booted" at work. I may very well be in the wrong workplace. But for the time being, I have never actually been asked to go home to change / wash the blue dye out of my hair, so I am going to continue to brazen it out, for the sake of my own sanity.
So here is what I wore to the office on 4 days out of the 5 work days in May so far (I didn't take a photo on Day 1).
2 May 2014
2 May:  my Darling Ranges Bluebirds and Pansies dress, for my interview.
And then...oh look - I wore the same skirt 3 days running!
8 May 2014
This is not some sort of MMM "pose". This is fairly typical of how I dress to work at the moment. That dark denim Peggy-esque skirt is my uniform. Looking back at my diary since I made it in February, I have worn it 16 times. That's pretty good going!
6 May:  worn with my new Lisette Portfolio blouse.
7 May:  worn with my rehab-ed 1940's vintage pattern back-buttoning blouse.
8 May:  worn with my Liberty roses Colette Sencha blouse.
Despite what I told Zoe, I haven't worn my Audrey-in-Unst cardi since 1 May.
In my head, the Boden cardigan is the smartening-up element in these outfits. Maybe I need to suck it up and buy more ready-to-wear thin cardigans, even though I am "A Knitter". In homewear, I have consistently pushed myself to wear my casual dresses. So my purple Darling Ranges came out to play on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
 My evening "home clothes" since then have included my denim Lisette Portfolio dress, worn over my only pair of leggings or jeans (when the leggings were in the wash). Does this mean I should make some leggings... or is life too short?!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Love, Health and Something to Look Forward To

This morning on the radio, a vet said those were the 3 important things in life: Love, Health and Something to look forward to. We've got lots of the first one around here. Not so much of the others. I can't make health happen, so I am working on the concept of "looking forward", but it sets my nerves a-jangling when my husband tells a neighbour he doesn't have long to live... So where are we now? I haven't heard the result of my job interview, but cornered a member of the panel and forced him to confess that the successful candidate had been informed (I was gentle - I teased it out of him). The lack of official communication leaves me speechless. But it does not surprise me, because I know how dysfunctional things can be around here. Although I was looking forward to a new challenge, going Through The Double Doors would have been a surreal experience, and probably very lonely. At least where I am, I am part of a team and we can cover for each other if need be. That's pretty important right now, when FL's health is so fragile. And blue hair would have been unthinkable. Now? Now I am looking forward to trying another colour :)

Monday, May 05, 2014

FO: Robe Eleonore from "Un Ete Couture"

Ceci n'est pas une blouse!
I was all set to spend the weekend sewing blouses for work.
Then I went to my interview, wearing a dress rather than a dull business suit... and I suddenly thought "Soddit!  I don't want to sew a boring blouse!  I want to make something exciting and new!"
So I challenged myself.
I bought a new sewing book.
"Un Ete Couture" is by Geraldine Debeauvias, the indie designer behind Republique Du Chiffon (RDC).
There are 19 patterns in here:  mostly dresses, but also a couple of tops,skirts, and a handful of collars.
Right upfront I will tell you:  these styles are aimed at the youngsters! But I was feeling in need of rejuvenation :)
 Stats:
Pattern:    Robe Eleonore from Un Ete Couture size Small
Fabric:  2 metres of unknown peached-finish synthetic, from Scruffybadger - I believe she bought it at Birmingham rag market?  Winnie - thank you my dear!  I finally accepted the dare to sew something slippery!
Other:  4 cover-your-own buttons, from stash;  thread; narrow elastic.
 Process:
Very French.
I immersed myself in the book before I started, and scoured the interwebs for successful examples of the finished dress.
I would advise you to proceed with caution if your French is a bit rusty.  Sewing-blog French is a whole different language!  The book itself is beautifully written and clear, but if you miss out the "how to sew" bit at the front, you might not realise that you are expected to add 10mm seam allowances and deeper hems.  Or that the facing pieces are drawn "in situ" on top of the bodice pieces, and have to be traced separately. I have scribbled notes to myself all over my tracing, ready for next time.
I learned lots of new words!
The channel for the waist-elastic is formed by folding the dress inside itself and stitching 17mm away from the fold line.  I wouldn't fancy trying that in a thicker fabric.

 Verdict?
OMG.  Perhaps I am especially vulnerable right now, but I almost cried when I tried this dress on for the first time. It swishes!  It flows!  It dances all by itself!
These wind-ridden pictures are maybe not the best to show how elegant it makes me feel.
Elegant?  ME?! It's a whole new sensation!
As I was making it, I kept thinking that Kirsty of Top Notch would wear something like this. I had to laugh when I saw that she has ordered a couple of RDC patterns herself!
I added the macrame belt as an experiment for these photos and it is perhaps a mistake.
My overall impression of this dress is of almost-1930's-style sophistication.  Bloomsbury?
That's why I tied my hair back - to suggest a bob.
It would be delicious with a pair of cuban-heeled gold shoes!
I love the cross-over neckline.  I've never tried that style before.
I was dubious about the elastic at the waist - "sack of potatoes" was my fear - but it seems to work in this fabric.
And the sleeves are such an unusual length - just below the elbow - very lady-like!
I added at least 6 inches to the skirt, as I was aiming for a garment I might wear to the office.  I am really glad I did - there are some very mini versions out there in blog-land.  I might make another tunic-length one myself, to wear over jeans, but this was always intended as a grown-up's garment.
It is definitely the sort of thing I could wear Through the Double Doors if I get the job I went for...  oh lord, the suspense is killing me!

Saturday, May 03, 2014

49 before 50: half way there

OK, so "Crochet a blanket" was not on my original list of 49 things to do before I am 50, but I am adding it now.   That's allowed, because there were some vacancies and I think I am going to achieve this goal:)
I never would have believed I would become obsessed by crochet but this blanket has me (sorry) hooked!
  
 I ran out of pale blue yarn.  Waiting for another ball to arrive was torture.  I had to knit instead!!!

  
See? I have a badge to prove it!  (It says "Knitter" if it is not clear enough...)
 
 I have my next crochet project waiting in the wings.  This is the Ripple Shawl (Issue 53 of Inside Crochet) by Vicki Brown, the same designer as the Mystery Blanket.  I had to buy the same yarn - those colours slay me!  It is Rico Superba Poems sock yarn in the Candy colourway, in case you need some too.

And here is some knitty pretty.  The latest instalment of the Knitting Goddess / Rachel Coopey sock club.  I absolutely love the pattern / yarn combination this month. 
Must. Knit. Faster.

And here is some evidence of Me Made May combined with 49 before 50 "Update my CV".
Yes I really did go to an interview dressed like that.
Did I get the job?
I won't know until Tuesday when the selection panel meets to decide.
Slow torture.
I look like my granny in that picture...