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).

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.

Lessons Learned

March 2011 164I have learned several lessons today. 1) I was right to buy more fabric for my first quilt. Remember I felt uneasy about the matchy-ness of my fabrics? I decided to mix up my orange fabrics with some aqua. I rather like the result.

2) I get really, really stressed out about measuring and cutting my pieces. At one point my hands were so shaking so much that I was ordered out of the classroom to get some fresh air. Well, you'd be stressed too if your first go with a rotary cutter resulted in you making a big and very uncalled-for cut into your expensive binding material.

March 2011 1693) I find the sewing part very relaxing and intuitive compared to the cutting. Nothing can go wrong now. Except if you sew wrong bits together but that is what a seam-ripper is for.

4) Seeing how your fabrics look together makes up for a lot of stress.

5) No matter how careful I am when measuring & cutting my pieces, I will need to dip into my scraps for extra squares because I struggle with imperial measurements.

March 2011 1756) And when I get home, I will take a ubiquitous photo of my semi-finished craft project in The Usual Spot.

I have homework for next week: I need to finish sewing all my squares and ironing them because next time we'll be putting the quilt together! I'm slightly terrified of the binding and very apprehensive about the actual quilting, but I'll be fine. My teacher, Bronwen, was a calming, encouraging influence throughout the class and even managed to make me feel accomplished despite my numerous shortcomings.

Also: I loved seeing how the other quilts were shaping up and how much of a difference fabric choice makes.

March 2011 172In knitting, a jumper looks more-or-less the same whether you do it in green, blue or orange. Katherine had chosen to use all bold patterns in teals, blues, and greens. Dr J had gone for one specific print and had picked co-ordinating fabrics based upon that print. Another woman were making the quilt with her god-daughter in mind: pretty, pale pastel colours and tiny prints. We were all using the same layout but the feel of the patchwork blocks were so very, very different. So cool.

Meanwhile I have started a new knitting project - a really easy, mindless little thing that's also a great stash-buster (as long as you don't go out to buy two balls of yarn to match stash yarn like I did..). More on that anon.

Finally, a few random links: + Old love never really dies ..  but the dog is a bonus. Also, Scots don't really look like this. Trust me. + I'm interested in neurology for a number of reasons and this little article answers something that has been nagging me since childhood: why do I see certain shapes if I rub my eyes? + The blog name really bugs me, but the post touches upon things that played a small, but very significant part in me leaving Denmark. + Sound advice for any blogger (not just food blogging).

Clip My Wings

Pause, rewind. Sewing is a different process to knitting. So far I have traced the pattern, worked up a toile (muslin) and discovered that I need to move the bust darts higher as well as doing a FBA. It is sort of a pre-process prior to making the actual garment out of the fancy fabric. Had this been knitting, I would have swatched using the actual yarn and probably be well under way making the actual thing itself.

Different processes. It's interesting.

Anyway. Random selection of linky bits: + The George Hotel, Glasgow. If you like urban decay, faded glamour or Trainspotting (the film, not the activity) + Is Denmark Breaching Human Rights? The other reason why I left Denmark. Even if D has a so-called "correct" skin tone and is an EU citizen, he would still get so much flak. No way would I put him through that. + BBC4 - The Beauty of Books. For a programme series apparently about the materiality of books, it does boast a suspicious amount of textual critics and biblical scholars. I was not impressed but I'm not exactly a layman. You might like it? + 100 Young Adult Books For the Feminist Reader. I spot certain omissions (such as this and this) but everyone's got opinions and it's a handy list. + Are you a knitter of the literary persuasion? Why not give the Beowulf socks a go?

Finally, I've derived great enjoyment from this video tonight.. Enjoy!

Sunday Craft Thoughts

Quite apart from celebrating my ten-year blogging anniversary, I have also been celebrating my thirty-mumble-th birthday this week. Among the many excellent presents, I received The Perfect Fit: A Practical Guide to Adjusting Sewing Patterns and The Sewing Book - both of which sent my heart a-flutter. I was also lucky enough to be given a sweater amount of ruby Kidsilk Haze and a shawl amount of burgundy Faroese wool. My sewing machine also arrived this week which called for a bit of fabric shopping. I feel very consumerist right now. shirt plansHowever, my consumerism is linked to a feeling of wanting to become less of a consumerist. My fabric purchases have been very deliberate and are linked to my desire to have an almost self-stitched capsule wardrobe. I've been reading Sewingplum's blog intently and while I'm not yet at a level where I can consider making 6 (let alone 24!) staple wardrobe pieces, I can at least become a much more thoughtful dresser - and crafter.

The photo shows two of the fabrics in my stash. The one on the left is the Liberty cotton lawn which D gave me for Christmas. Right now I feel slightly daunted by this fabric. The fabric on the right is a Joel Dewberry cotton which is earmarked for my first 'proper' sewing project: the Simplicity 2501 blouse. It's a very versatile pattern (check out this very vintage-looking version!) and one I can imagine myself making several times. You might think I am batting above my weight with this pattern. We shall see. After all, I used to be a decent dressmaker back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I'm yet to find an equally versatile pattern for the lower pattern of my body. I'm also trying to decide whether I would ever feel confident enough to wear the Ceylon dress - I'm already pretty sure the Crepe dress will be a go-to pattern: it would look equally nice in neutrals and bold prints (versatility is the key to my heart, it seems).

As I have previously mentioned, I'm going to have a real go at making clothes appropriate for warm(ish) weather which makes knitting and crochet slightly trickier. Fancy is still on my list, but it will probably be the only big knitting project I'll undertake. I'll be looking into making a couple of small shrugs - Veronique ticks my boxes but it's also knitted in KSH and two projects in KSH might be a bit much even for me. Right now, though, I am contrating on a knitted art piece I shall be exhibiting at the Glasgow Tramway art gallery next month (link NSFW due to artistic nudity). I'm behind schedule and need to press on.

Finally: thank you for all your comments recently. I'll try to get back to each and every one of you!

Decisions Of Various Kinds

After some research and a lot of deliberation, I went to two sewing machine demonstrations this past week. I tried four different machines:

  • Elna 2800. I tried this one at The Life Craft. I quickly felt comfortable using it and it was easy to use. It is just a smidgen too basic for my needs.
  • Elna 3210. I tried this one and the following two at John Lewis. Weirdly enough, I knew immediately this was not the machine for me. I did not like the placement of the reverse key, and I found choosing a stitch more hassle than it ought to have been.
  • Janome Excel II 5024. I like this machine a lot. It is sturdy, intuitive to use, and it comes with a good selection of feet.
  • Janome Dec0r 3050. The only computerised machine I tried. It was easy to use, is very versatile, and comes with a good selection of feet.

Sewing samplesI kept the two samplers I made just so I could compare stitch quality between the 5024 and the 3050.

If I knew I were to become a control freak quilter who needed absolute even stitching, I would go for the 3050 in a heartbeat. The 5024 has even stitching, don't get me wrong, but the 3050 has that computerised evenness down pat. I'm just not cut out (boom!) to be a control freak quilter.

On the other hand, I'm not sure I'm willing to pay £100 more to get super-even stitching, three buttonhole options, and a whole lot of decorative stitches that I will probably never use. The 5024 is the best mechanical machine I've tried, it does the basics plus a bit more, and it does its thing very well. It is a real workhorse of a machine, and I enjoyed working with it.

I just really like that keyhole buttonhole that the 3050 has to offer, dammit. And the machine is just, well, prettier than the 5024.

Decisions, decisions.

Meanwhile I have been really inspired by all your comments about a Spring-Summer wardrobe. I have also kept a close eye on the Colette Patterns Spring Palette challenge in which people have defined their sewing goals for Spring 2011. I haven't made it that far yet - for obvious reasons outlined above - but I have actually begun to think about cohesive wardrobes and deliberate colour palettes for the first time in my entire life (bar my university years: black with a dash of black for that intellectual look).

Spring Summer 2011I created a palette at ColourLovers which helped me identify five colours that will form the basis of my Spring-Summer crafting this year: Citrus colours balanced and anchored by two neutrals (I particularly like the cool brown). Crazy as it may sound, I already have yarn and fabric that reflect this palette but it wasn't until I sat down to play with colours that I realised this. I think having this palette in mind will also help my buying habits.

Colourlovers is a great site, actually. Not only does it let you create a palette of your own choice (or find suitable colours created by someone else), but it lets you create a pattern based upon your chosen colours , and then you can transport that pattern to Spoonflower where they'll print your very own fabric. If I were rich, I'd totally design my own freaking wardrobe down to every last detail.

I may not be a control freak quilter, but I can still get a tad obsessive at times.