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Category Archives: Sewing

Almost Time: This Thing of Paper Wraps Up & An Everyday Make

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Behind the scenes work may already have commenced on This Thing of Paper, but the campaign still has a few hours left. If you want to pledge your support, be aware that one reward level has gone and only a few slots remain on others. People have asked me how I am feeling – it is difficult to explain but I will try once I have summed up what a most extraordinary community has achieved.

Thanks to people:

  • This Thing of Paper will go into print!
  • I will have a small, awesome team of people working on this project.
  • The overall quality of the printed book has been enhanced.
  • Sample knitters will help me cut down the production time of the book.
  • I am able to apply to be a vendor at key UK knitting shows.
  • We will have book launch parties in Central Scotland and in London, UK with periscope feeds.
  • We will have a trunk show with Q&A in Manchester.

Isn’t that incredible? When I launched the campaign, I hoped we could achieve the first two action points, but we’ve managed seven!

Answers to a few queries:

  • LYS owners will be able to preorder This Thing of Paper approximately one month before publication.
  • I already have a small army of sample knitters assembled, but thank you for thinking of me!
  • I already have a technical editor and a copy editor onboard, but (again) thank you for thinking of me!
  • You will see me less over the next six months or so, as I have a book to make! I am currently fully booked in terms of events and workshops until April 2017.
  • If you weren’t able to pledge support for This Thing of Paper, the book will be in print next year (estimated date: April 2017).
  • Unfortunately I am not able to accept pledges outside of Kickstarter.

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So, how do I feel? I keep going back to that word: overwhelming, but it fits. The whole experience has been very overwhelming. People have been so kind, so supportive, so generous, and so lovely.

The financial side of things is obviously fantastic (as you can see above!) but the emotional support has been equally amazing. And I think that’s what you get from a crowdfunding effort: you get the emotional support too. And the emotional support is equally important to creatives like me who forget sometimes that we are not working in a vacuum. We are connected to a community of extraordinary people who like what we do – and something like this campaign has really brought that home.

Thank you so, so much. It means a lot as you will be able to tell by the next section.

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One night last week I sat up late reflecting. The world has been a terribly bleak place of late, and my thoughts were swirling around the fact that my tiny, tiny corner is filled with the most extraordinary people: you are makers, knitters, writers, artists, lovers, dancers, thinkers & doers. And so I asked myself : how can we spread the goodness and kindness I experience in my everyday life? I don’t pretend to have any answers, but I believe that we need to carry on being good, kind and open-hearted people. We need to challenge hate and fear when we see it – and to do so with love and compassion.

And then I went off to make myself a dress because I needed to create a space where I could refocus and recharge. Making stuff means that to me.

dressaThe dress is New Look 6262 – pardon the awful photo! It’s a very straight-forward make, and I added pockets plus lengthened the sleeves. I used cotton lawn I had purchased from Abakhan when they had an excellent post-Christmas sale. I had three yards  but despite longer sleeves and pockets, I found I only used around 2.5 yards – with the fabric costing me around £3 per yard (I’ve seen it for sale elsewhere at triple the price!), that must be said to be quite a bargain!

Having said that, I don’t find my lifestyle lends itself particularly well to cotton lawn dresses. Scotland is probably a bit too cold for this dress to be entirely practical and I nearly had a tear in the fabric when the brooch in the photo caught the fabric. I tend to get caught on stuff, so I’ll be wanting to use slightly heavier fabric in the future.

The dress itself is fine, though I’m not crazy about gathered skirts. It was a quick make and it went together without a hitch. I opted to make fancy-pants facings, but that only took about fifteen minutes extra.

Would I make this pattern again? Probably – it is easy to wear, easy to make, and doesn’t take much fabric. It is not the most exciting project ever, but that’s okay. Sometimes you just want to make stuff and lose yourself in the process.

Cardigan is Hetty by Andi Satterlund knitted in Cascade 220. Everyday wardrobe for the win.

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Making & Doing: Shawl, Skirt & Teaching

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Happier times ahead. We had a photo shoot yesterday for this asymmetrical shawl knitted in three colours of Ripples Crafts BFL 4ply. I’ll be writing much more about this shawl later (including my source of inspiration, why it’s the next instalment of Authors & Artists, and how it is constructed) but for now let’s glance downwards..

Pskirt

Hello skirt! This is one of the first things I’ve whipped up since I started dress-making again. I made this skirt in just a few hours and it worked perfectly for the photo shoot.

I use the super-simple Burda 6682 and made View B. The fabric is a slightly stretchy cotton poplin I found in a remnant bin in Glasgow’s Mandors. I had around 0.75m and still managed to eke out a knee-length skirt. The construction couldn’t be simpler: darts front & back, side & back seams, zipper, waistband, hem, done. I had never inserted a regular zipper before (it’s always been invisible zips until now) but even that went without a hitch. I’m not entirely happy with how the waistband was attached – it was easy but looks a bit sloppy on the inside – so I’m going to try a slightly more fiddly waistband next time. I think my perfectionist tendencies are rearing their heads again..

.. but the skirt is super-comfortable and fits well. Its no-nonsense style makes it a good, basic pattern that I can see myself making again and again. Well, I am trying to make an everyday wardrobe, after all! The next skirt will be made of a medium weight denim that I picked up at the same time as the pattern. I have a bit more fabric to play with this time, so I might add a bit more length.

Pshoes

I’m off to Manchester this weekend for the Joeli’s Kitchen retreat. There are going to be all sorts of amazing people there and I cannot wait to see everybody.

Next Wednesday I am going to be at Kendal’s finest wool establishment, Williams Wools. I’m teaching a class on colourwork and how to design it yourself. I know people have lots of ideas in their heads, but it can be difficult translating those ideas into a project. I’ll also talk about how to find the right colour combinations because that is probably one of the questions I get asked the most!

Then Saturday the 6th I am back up in Dundee’s Fluph Shop doing c-c-cables in the morning (sorting out those C2R, CNB, and T3R abbreviations!) and Shetland lace shawls in the afternoon. It’s never dull teaching at Fluph and I expect a fair amount of difficult questions flung at me!

I’m late updating my workshop page due to Life Happening, but hopefully that’ll whet everybody’s appetite! I’ll return with more details about the new pattern and some Edinburgh Yarn Festival lowdown!

The Joy Of Making Stuff

September 2014 012

Oh, but the joy of making.

Recently I have begun dressmaking again. I had previous forays into dressmaking around 2011, but I have not been seriously sewing clothes since I was a teenager. This time around I have discovered how relaxing I find the rituals and processes of dressmaking. Casa Bookish is fairly petite, so I do my sewing on the dining table which presents its own challenges. Despite a pressed schedule and lack of space, I am really enjoying myself.

Which brings me to this outburst:

LET’S MAKE STUFF and make the world a more creative, imaginative, happier, more colourful, and enjoyable place.

Some times I worry we overthink the act of making.

We swathe it in mystique (all those “15 Things You Need To Know To Unlock Your Creativity” pieces).

We become consumers rather than creators (“You cannot do origami unless you buy authentic unicorn paper from this off-shore Japanese monastery”).

We are tourists rather than inhabitants of MakingLand (spending more time browsing Pinterest and blogs rather than make all the things we pin and queue).

LET’S MAKE STUFF and make the world a more creative, imaginative, happier, more colourful, and enjoyable place.

I know that a full-time job and family life leaves us with precious little time. I know it’d be amazing to have a whole weekend just making stuff. I know time is a scarce resource.

But if you have 30 minutes free every Sunday, you too can make stuff! Don’t feel you need to have tonnes of free time. Make when you can! Make when you are on the train! Make in your lunch break! Make whilst the pasta is boiling! Make whilst watching TV!

LET’S MAKE STUFF and make the world a more creative, imaginative, happier, more colourful, and enjoyable place.

July 2014 845

So, I’m dress-making.

A) I feel really happy when I wear something I have made.

B) I have become increasingly aware of my making needing to reflect my everyday wardrobe.

C) I want sewn clothes that fit me as well as my knitted items do.

My main reason for dress-making is wardrobe, so my main focus is to find a basic dress pattern that I can make over & over with a few tweaks. I wear dresses all the time – occasionally skirts – so I am not to bothered about keeping up with what’s the latest trendy pattern to make in the sewing world.

I spent a bit of time on a disastrous pattern which I nicknamed The Apron Dress. I had seen some pretty versions of the dress on various people I know, but the fit was so, so awful. The lack of any actual structure (i.e. darts, supportive seams and shaping within the pattern itself) means that I was wearing a cutesy apron dress in which my bust looked to be extending outwards! The overall effect was not good. Fortunately I was just making a toile using cheap charity shop fabric – lessons gained and no beautiful fabric lost.

Moving on, I have been playing around with the Emery dress pattern by Christine Haynes which comes with beautifully clear instructions and structure. I’ve really hacked’n’slashed the Emery bodice. I’ve added extra coverage for my bust, moved the darts, and I’m about to alter the waist a tiny bit too. The first toile was almost spot on – I just had to move the bust apex a bit, lower the waist darts and .. well, I am having fun. when I was dressmaking as a teenager, I had no notion of fit but this time around I’m geeking out.

And there is knitting too, but I am in the midst of ‘stuff’ that will be unveiled at a later date. There is nothing more frustrating than some very pleasing things I cannot discuss. Fortunately there is always, always making stuff.

April 2011 018aa

QALong 2014 – What Is It?

John Lennon once said that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. As a teenager I thought the quote so mind-blowing that I wrote it in everybody’s yearbook when we graduated from secondary school. Nowadays I’d change it slightly: life is what happens when you are busy looking in other directions.

To wit: I have apparently started a quilt-along in 2014 without meaning to do so. Amazing.

Some back-story, first. A close family member of mine announced over the holidays that she is expecting a baby. It was an unexpected announcement but one that was incredibly cheering.My mind immediately went to “what can I make?” – a knitting project was decided upon and some yarn was bought (this happens occasionally).

Then, I found a metre of kids’ fabric on sale. The colour was pleasingly gender neutral and it had a lot of happy zoo animals on it. Oooh! Educational and non-nauseatingly cute! I knew the fabric would be perfect for a baby quilt but when I came home, I realised I have only made one quilt in my entire life and I would not have the amazing Bronwen at my side to lend moral support during the making of the quilt.

March 2011 289

My first – and only quilt so far

Bronwen used to run quilting classes at my local craft shop. I went on her beginners’ course a few years back and she was the best. She was patient, fun, and incredibly knowledgeable about patchwork and quilting. I knew that if I stood any chance of making a second quilt ( for lo! I have made but one in my entire life), I’d need Bronwen to be there. I am not incompetent nor am I bad at sewing – I just panic easily whenever a rotary cutter is involved!

Thankfully Bronwen is on Twitter, heard my lament and she suggested a casual quilt-along starting this spring. Bronwen wanted to finish a couple of WIPs and would I care to join her? Before I knew what happened about ten or eleven people had joined us.

Would you like to join us too?

#QAlong is mainly going to run on Twitter. Starting March, we’ll have a monthly* informal show & tell/chat/support group night on Twitter.(*possibly more often depending on how it goes!)

There is NO set pattern, NO set fabric, NO set timeline (other than it’ll really kick off in March), and NO skill level required. 

We have experienced people on-board and we have complete beginners (like me) on-board. #QALong is about having fun with no pressure and no rules. You work at your own pace with your own chosen project – but with the added bonus of having a virtual quilting group at your disposal!

Bronwen has agreed to answer a few of my questions here on Fourth Edition. We’ll talk fabric choices, how to deal with rotary cutters, and how to choose a pattern that suits your skill level.

There is NO sign-up for #QALong either – that’s all part of the whole idea. However, if you do have questions for Bronwen (or anybody else – I can help with colour selection, for instance), do leave a comment and your question will be included in one of the help posts here and we’ll also discuss on Twitter. 

I am personally a bit daunted by the thought of doing a quilt but I cannot wait to get started.

March 2011 294

Yes She Said

YarnI bought myself two Christmas presents. First of all, I finally became a member of MetaFilter – still the best community weblog the internet has to offer. I have been lurking on MetaFilter for almost ten years, so it was definitely time to take the plunge and cough up those five bucks.

My second gift to myself has also been a long-time coming. For years I have been circling Garthenor Yarns and their organic, sheepy goods. Their yarns are produced from sheep kept on organic lands and the yarn is spun with minimal processing and no dyeing. I finally cracked earlier this week and now my Shetland single ply laceweight in ‘light oatmeal’ has arrived.

Oh, but it is beautiful. It reminds me of the Faroese laceweights I have been using: the same self-assured simplicity and honesty that says ‘this has worked for centuries, so why change anything?’. This yarn is as far away from novelty yarns or instant gratification yarns as you can get – and for my money it is all the better for it. Although I’d love to see Karise knitted up in this sort of rustic yarn, I think I’ll end up writing an entirely new pattern for it.

FabricsOkay, I have also bought fabric but it is less an indulgence than a response to ‘oh dear, I have just thrown out half my wardrobe’. I did try to find tops I liked on the high street, but eventually I just went to Mandors and bought several yards of pretty polycotton in their January sale.

I intend to make several Art Teacher tunics – I’ll be tweaking the pattern, though. The original Art Teacher tunic had a zip which I confess never using as the tunic easily slips over my head. I’ll also lengthen it a tiny bit, make it slightly more A-line and I’ll try very hard not to have ironing mishaps during construction. Scout’s honour (I was never a Girl Scout).

Finally, I’m going to read James Joyce’s The Dead tonight. Why? The story takes place on January 6.

Joyce is one of those authors with whom I have not really made peace (having said that, I think that is everyone‘s relationship with Joyce). I have read Dubliners from which The Dead is taken. I have made headway into Ulysses and Portrait but never attempted Finnegans Wake. I could happily drown in a sea of Joyce’s words – Listen, a fourworded wavespeech: seesoo, hrss, rsseeiss, ooos – but I never connected with him the way I connected with TS Eliot.

Having said that, if you have not read any James Joyce and you recoil at the very idea, sit down and read The Dead. It is a fairly quick read, you won’t need a spreadsheet to help you understand it and – best of all – it is wonderful.

Well Still Pretty Good Year

First task of the year: sort out the wardrobe.

I should probably not use the word ‘wardrobe’ as that word implies system, thoughtfulness, and coherence. Most of my clothes stem from the frantic days of arriving in the UK with a suitcase of clothes and needing workplace-suitable attire. As a consequence, most of my wardrobe consists of cheap clothes bought in a state of panic.

Nowadays I lead the charmed life of a freelancer working within a creative industry with ties to fashion. Interestingly this means two things: 1) I have a great collection of pyjamas because I spend a lot of time working in my jammies, and 2) I have discovered that while I do not care much for fashion I do care a lot about style.

So I went through my wardrobe and threw out everything that did not fit, that needed a degree of mending that was at great odds with the intrinsic value of the item itself, or which had been too fashionable when I bought it and thus no longer stylish (I think of style as something which cannot pinned down to a particular time nor place – rather it transcends time and place).

Verdict: I need tops and trousers somewhat badly. I need basic cardigans. And I am not allowed to knit myself any scarves or shawls because I have a lot (note the phrasing: ..knit myself.. which means I can knit for others or for design purposes). I can sew some of the things myself, but what I really need is a focused shopping spree.

I hate clothes shopping.

My neighbourhood made national news yesterday after the recent hurricane felled a few trees, made several chimney pots collapse, and ripped roof tiles off. The police have closed off one street due to unstable masonry. I was safely ensconced at work but was troubled by the amounts of roof tiles I encountered on the way from work. One of the big trees in our back garden has fallen too. It is still blustery out there, but the worst has passed. In case you are curious, I live very close to where the fourth photo in this series was taken.

Knitting-wise: I’m swatching for a few designs. Reading-wise: I have finished two books so far this year, although the less said about the second book the better (it was not my idea).

FO: Klimt Skirt

Klimt SkirtI could get addicted to making my own clothes.

This green corduroy skirt is ridiculously Just What I Like & Cannot Find in Stores, that I cannot believe I did not do this dress-making lark years ago.

One pattern from a Danish sewing magazine
One and a half yards of green corduroy
One yard of green poly lining
One invisible zip
One spool of green poly thread
Selection of Liberty fabric scraps & vintage buttons

One happy seamstress & wearer.

I altered the pattern (of course I did). The appliqué was done different to the pattern suggestion, I added lining and did away with the slightly clumsy bias binding around the waist.

Klimt? Why not. In fact, look at Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” and tell me that you cannot see it. Just me? Okay then..

And I’m wearing my own handmade St. James sweater with this skirt. Oh, wardrobe love.

In other crafty news, I spent the morning trying to decipher a crochet pattern written in Afrikaans using a Dutch crochet glossary, Google Translate and reverse engineering from photo. Adventurous! After an hour and six rounds, friends kindly pointed me to an online English translation of the pattern.. and I felt a bit silly.

Finally, a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of the loveliest people I have ever met, Paula. This little video is for you..

Of Petals and Parcelforce

I spent the evening sewing again. I’m making a much needed lined corduroy skirt and I had this idea in my head. I am using remnants of Liberty fabric swatches for the embellishment. Let’s see how my idea looks when the skirt is properly assembled, though.

The pattern is from a Danish sewing magazine my mum sent me earlier this year. I love receiving parcels from my family. Tiny presents and unexpected treats. My partner gets his beloved Danish marzipan, I get craft magazines and licorice. Win-win .. except when Parcelforce messes up and they do mess up quite frequently.

Add another Parcelforce failure to my bunch of stories – this time my story guest-stars my gran who sent me a lovely surprise parcel in July. Of course the parcel just happened to be picked up by a driver who ‘forgets’ about collection cards and just dumps parcels in the local post office rather than try to deliver them. And of course the post office gets tired of undelivered parcels taking up space and returns them to the Parcelforce depot where they disappear.

I have never lied this much to Gran over so short a timespan. Of course I knew where the parcel was! Unfortunately the post office was closed just as I made it there. Oh, I am just waiting for the delivery man to confirm when he’s going to pop by.. If you have ever had a gran whose worried silence speaks volumes, you will know how I have felt these past two days.

Thankfully, Parcelforce does have nice people working for them. Steve found my parcel tonight after trawling the depot. And he is going to make sure that the parcel is being delivered tomorrow.

It better be. I cannot deal with Day Three of Gran being worried.

In other news, I was rather underwhelmed by BBC4’s Elegance & Decadence: The Age of Regency. The subject matter is so interesting – the early parts of the 19th century were filled with radical ideas, grand geopolitical events, and amazing cultural upheaval – but despite an enthusiastic presenter, the while thing got mired down in cumbersome details about marble tables and gilded tableware. At least Beau Brummell was briefly mentioned (to my great geeky delight) but why he was to be singled out among the rarified set was never really fully explained beyond a brief dressing-up session. I shall keep watching but my hopes are slightly dampened.

Off to read some Russian literature. As you do.

Sewing FO: The Art Teacher Outfit

It’s blustery and windy outside. I think autumn has just hit Glasgow in a big way. We never really had a summer this year – just a few sunny days and temperatures around 21C interspersed with torrential rain. The past two years we have had very hard winters. I hope winter will be milder this year, but with autumn arriving early .. who knows?

I finished my dress – cue awkward posing in our stairwell (it’s too windy to take reasonable photos outside).

I had my Other Half help me with the hemline – which is why I shall no longer refer to it as a dress. This is henceforth a tunic which irritates me greatly. I had made it to wear to work but it is definitely too short for that purpose. To hell with “but it shows off your legs!” – I needed a practical dress and this is not it. I’ll try wearing it with work trousers, but I do not have great hopes for that.

The pattern was very easy to use and easy to adjust. I’ll definitely use it again (and maybe even try making the trousers).

I like the raglan sleeve construction which is done with several pieces and results in a very flattering sleeve. I note that several people on PatternReview said that they felt the sleeves were too tight. I have Big Girl arms and the sleeves fit just fine – they are maybe even a smidgen too loose.

I altered the yoke slightly and sewed down the gathers about 2 inches below the neckline as I felt the dre tunic would benefit from a bit more structure. I understitched the facings too in order to combat the floppiness reported on Pattern Review. I did away with the ruffles on the sleeves (just not my thing) and simplified the pockets.

The pockets are super-cute, if slightly impractical.

I will probably do the same mods next time I sew this – but I’ll add an extra 3 inches to the length. As it is not a hugely flattering shape for my body type, I might try and draft a slightly more A-line body next time. Or possibly do a couple of pleats empire-style underneath my bust. I do have a waist, you see, and while I’m a big fan of comfy dre tunics, they can be comfy and show off that waist at the same time. So there.

Did I mention I had an ironing accident with this fabric? Cunningly I fixed things so you cannot tell. Despite its tendency to fray (and melt), I do love the fabric. It works with everything in my wardrobe and is really nice to wear.

New things learned: making ironing accidents disappear, adding extra length to whatever hemline length my partner suggests, sewing patch pockets (super-easy) and dealing with flimsy and slippery material.

With autumn here already, I think it’s time to address my urgent need for skirts.

I Didn’t Know That You Cared

Casa Bookish was hit by runny noses and sore throats this week. The affliction resulted in two things: a lot of books being read and some impromptu dress-making.

The dress in question is still a work in progress. It’s based upon Simplicity 2925, view A but I cannot be trusted to do anything by the book – not even sewing. I did away with some ruffles, altered the yoke/neckline and I’m adding buttons where there are no buttons. Rebel.

The fabric is a very light polycotton from Mandors. I fell in love with the subtle geometric print and the black/dark green/cream colours. It won’t keep me warm, but it will be a great layering piece (once I finish it – the basic construction is done, but the small bits are not).

I have become aware that I’m increasingly dressing like an art teacher. A very Danish art teacher with restrained colour schemes and attention to details – but an art teacher nonetheless. Making more of my own clothes will not – will not – curb that tendency.

Meanwhile, as some of you may know, The Huffington Post published a blog post about knitting and baking betraying the feminist movement. The post itself read like someone had taken a Feminism 101 class and just scraping home a pass (because the teacher was in a good mood having devoured a home-baked cup cake). The responses to the post were far more interesting. This one is one of my favourites so far: succinct, humorous, and blunt. Any recommendations for more smart, funny, self-aware responses?

On the agenda: getting better, saving Other Half from the plague, choosing non-functioning buttons for the dress, cooking dinner (soup?) and reading my book. It’s a hard life.