29 September 2014

Handmade Outfits Are Back!

Outfits Are Back! Summer Series - Outfit 1

Whoo Hoo!! Remember my Handmade Wardrobe series last year?! Well it's back for a Summer 2014/15 series! 

My wardrobe is desperate for a New Zealand summer overhaul. I scraped through last summer all hot and yucky, dreaming of cooler dresses, less sleeves and more swooshy, lightweight clothing and I'm not planning to do it again. Warm weather is in the air, I need new clothes and since I'm still on a quest to create myself a totally handmade wardrobe I'd better get started. These clothes aren't going to make themselves! 

Like last year, I'm plotting and scheming in terms of outfits - rather than individual pieces - planning new clothes outfit by outfit gets me all excited and motivated. But this time I'm going to go a little easier on myself. Last year I aimed for an outfit a month and my plans were scarpered about half way through the year when we began our big move downunder to New Zealand. At the moment, with Christmas around the corner, a few more knitting designs in the wings and a buzzing family life, I don't fancy imposing any rules on myself. They'll only get broken! 

So, my plan thus far is to make myself one outfit at a time; bags, jewellery and accessories included. No time limits but ideally I'd like to have made a bunch of new clothes by the end of the summer ... that's about March/April 2015. I'm also thinking I'd like to stretch myself a little and try some new techniques. Isn't it all sounding more exciting by the minute?!

I'm also hoping to use as much as I can from my fabric and yarn stash and limit what I buy. I had a rummage through my fabric stash over the weekend and really and truly, it's crazy how much stuff I've got hidden under my bed.

So, where to start? The motley assortment in the photo will be my first outfit. I like to name my outfits and I'm calling this one "mother of four tries to look a little chic while still feeling very comfortable" or something like that. For this outfit I'm doing a little finishing off, a little "making-over", as well as  some making from scratch.

The black and white fabric is an almost finished Washi top. The black is actually more dark grey than black; it's an old Amy Butler cotton print. The top is sleeveless with a keyhole neckline and it shouldn't take much to finish. I just have to bind the armholes with the vivid orange cotton I dyed a while ago and them hem it.

The dingy brown fabric is a stretch denim that I'm going to dye grey (along with the battered blue shoes). Once dyed it's going to become a short, funky Moss Skirt. Fingers crossed about the shoes. I'm not sure how they'll go. They're jolly shabby and terribly stained.

Everything will be finished off with a chunky necklace featuring these rather fabulous wooden beads around the front. I do love making jewellery.

Best I get cracking. I'll be back soon to report how I'm getting on. Anyone fancy joining me in whipping up an outfit?

26 September 2014

Share All The Things Friday

Share All The Things Friday

We're at the beginning of two weeks holiday here in New Zealand. The clocks change tomorrow, the weather is slowly warming up and I'm kicking the kids outside to play every chance I get. I think summer is inching closer!

  • I've got a delicious drink to share with you today. Chia lemon tea. It sounds odd - but it's delicious - do try it! You'll need a teaspoon of chia seeds (I've got black but white looks prettier), a blob of honey, a slice of lemon and boiling water. Pop the chia seeds and the honey in the bottom of your cup, pour over the boiling water and drop in your lemon slice. You'll need a teaspoon to savour every last chia seed, they get quite gloopy given a chance to soak for a bit.

  • The Good Life Project has been running for a couple of years now. Jonathan Fields has interviewed dozens of fascinating and inspiring creative entrepreneurs and ground-breaking thinkers and I look forward to my weekly fix. Some of my favourites interviews have been with Brene Brown, Dani Shapiro, Milton Glaser and Christian Howes. (You really don't have to watch all those! But I think they're a great place to start). So far, all of the interviews have been videoed but that's all changing. Jonathan believes that he'll get even more candid and revealing interviews without cameras in the room. So he's changing to radio. It'll be interesting to see how his theory works out.

  • Cooperative Press are running a survey where they're asking you to be the boss. They really want to hear what you have to say about where they should take their business and they're offering a $100 book voucher to one lucky participant as well as random prizes for being awesome. It doesn't take long to fill it out (I have!). You've got till the end of the month.

Happy weekend everyone! X

25 September 2014

Settler Shawl Story

Settler Shawl Story

Wow wee! You guys are completely amazing. I've been totally bowled over by your enthusiastic response to my Settler Shawl design these last few weeks. I've recognised lots of your names in the list of purchasers and I've been soooo very grateful. Thank you! 

It's all left me feeling really inspired and I've already started getting a few more ideas down on paper and into patterns - so watch this space!

Settler Shawl Story

While I had fun designing my Settler Shawl, my journey to the final dove blue shawl pictured in my pattern didn't follow any sort of route that I'd imagined most designers take. I wonder if that's because I'm pretty new to this designing thing or (most likely) because I tend to get clear about my ideas once I can see them. I'm like that with thoughts too - got to talk to figure out what I think. It's probably a good thing Mr Myrtle is such a great listener ;)

Anyhow, I thought I'd tell you the story of the Settler Shawl. 

Once upon a time a few months ago, after flashing my rather extensive yarn stash to one too many unsuspecting visitors (embarrassingly I'm not sure they even actually asked to see it ...) I realised that I needed to take drastic action. Faced with a huge pile of beautiful (and scarily expensive) yarn sprawled over my bed it dawned on me that if I kept adding to my stash in the haphazard manner that I've been doing for quite a few years now, I might not live long enough to knit it all! Crikey. 

A lot of times I buy yarn with no particular project in mind and I tend to buy new yarn when I cast on something new because invariably there's nothing suitable in the stash (sound familiar?). Because of this (aside from a few piles of yarn that's been bought to make kids sweaters that never eventuated) I've got rather a lot of single skeins; lace, DK, worsted - you name it, a few far flung yarns I've bought on holiday and a ridiculous amount of sock weight yarn simply too beautiful to be hidden in shoes. Faced with my stash en masse one too many times, I had a flash of inspiration. I decided I would have a bash at "designing the stash". Ambitious but terribly exciting and immediately my head started spinning with possibilities.

Settler Shawl Story

My Settler Shawl was initially going to be knit in this very glorious, rich oceanic yarn. It's single spun merino (solo) dyed in their "neptune" colourway by the very talented dyers at Sparkleduck. I swatched, tried out my border stitch, liked what I saw, counted my stitches and rows, roughly wrote my pattern and off I went.

Needless to say I cast on a whole bunch of times to get that cast on edge just right. My aim was to make my pattern accessible to new knitters but I also wanted to create as neat an edge as possible without starting with a tab cast on. Nothing like a little streak of perfectionism to make things more complicated for oneself. Finally I got it right and off I went. The garter body with increases every row is a breeze to knit, great to pick up and put down and simple to maintain even coupled with good conversation. So far, so good.

Settler Shawl Story

I'd worked out my numbers before I started. I'd played around with how many stitches I'd need to fit in my patterned border into the body of my shawl, how many stitches I liked crossed over one another (and which way they'd cross) and roughly how big it'd all get. 

So onto my lacy pattern I went. Whoops. hadn't quite thought through making my lacy holes alternate rather than stack on top of one another while also factoring in the increases along the side edges. More maths and fiddling later and I had it sorted. So much maths! So much fiddling!

Happily everything flowed rather nicely from then on in. The lace was coming together nicely, the edges kept growing into a beautiful curve .... but then I noticed something else ...

Settler Shawl Story

Yip. My ball of yarn was growing too small too fast. The game of yardage chicken began.

Sparkleduck's Solo base has less yardage than your average sock weight yarn it's only 366m per 100g and I think re-fiddling my pattern when I hit the border meant I bumped my yardage requirements up a little. Oh dear.

I hate playing chicken with yarn. My palms get all clammy - possibly the worst senario for smooth knitting - I breath too fast and my knitting tends to go a bit crazy. At one moment I'm knitting too fast, the next I'm going super slow and constantly putting my knitting down as if that'll somehow help make the yarn last right to the end.

But remarkably I got right to the last row. The cast off row. I meekly wished I'd have enough and crossed my fingers and toes, but of course I wanted to use a stretchy cast off that used more yarn than usual so the shawl would effortlessly stretch into a gentle curve. About half way along that very last row I lost the game of yardage chicken. 

Isn't it funny how we sometimes just keep knitting even though we know deep down it isn't going to work out? I knew I'd run out of yarn. I also knew I liked the pattern just how it was and I wasn't going to be able to suggest to you that you knit it with a yarn that clearly wasn't long enough. I knew I'd have to knit my design in another yarn entirely. But still I went on. Just in case. Of course it was super late into the night by now. Everyone else was asleep.

What did I do? I looked at my shawl. It was very pretty and I decided that I wanted to keep it. It'd just need a little help to get finished and I'd do it that very night. There's nothing like waking up in the morning to a finished shawl. So, I ripped back until I was two rows from the end found a rather lovely grape shade of fingering in my stash, knit my last two rows with that, sat back and admired my very lovely new shawl with it's stripe of colour along the outside edge and then fell into bed happy.

The next morning I pulled out some very beautiful Madtosh with longer yardage from my stash and cast on Settler Shawl again!

Settler Shawl

Well, I got there in the end. And on the plus side, I've now got two pretty shawls :)

You can find my first Settler Shawl on Ravelry here. Maybe you'd fancy a stripe on the border of your Settler? Go for it!

19 September 2014

Share All The Things Friday


Because I'm an on-the-hop blogger, writing posts on the day you see them rather than in advance, I'm sitting here late in the evening on Friday night writing this post. It's very rock and roll around here ;)

I've been feeling worried that I'm swamping you with All The Things. There's just so much to share! Anyhow, I thought I'd try telling you about fewer things and see how that goes. Do let me know what you think - how much would you like to see? What kind of things do you really love? I'm happy to evolve.

  • I don't think I have always felt in a rush but my last year and a bit has been lived at a crazy pace and I'm ready to slow. it. down. This week I've been reading Dr. Libby Weaver's book The Rushing Woman's Syndrome and it's absolutely fascinating. I hadn't heard of Dr. Libby before this year - she's Australian, she's written a bunch of books (including cookbooks) and tours NZ fairly regularly giving talks about health and lifestyle issues. She is a nutritional biochemist with a holistic approach to health, backing up everything she says with science (she's got a Phd. in Biochemistry). I really like her ideas, they makes good sense to me. If you'd like a wee taste of Dr. Libby's Rushing Woman book - check out her TED talk.

  • The mason jar in my photo contains kefir. At least I hope it does. I'm curious to see how long I can keep my kefir grains alive. Kefir grains are clusters of good bacteria - like yoghurt but way more powerful. I'm growing mine in water. I should end up with a bubbly, slightly fermented flavoured drink. Traditionally kefir was made with milk but apparently it's easy to convert milk kefir grains to water kefir grains by just washing them. Here's the kefir method I'm trying.

  • Just take a peek at this cardigan. Isn't it beautiful? I'd love to dress all my girls in these but they've become so jolly opinionated. Anyhow, this photo led me back to The Craft Sessions and I sighed and wished I lived Melbourne or at least much, much closer - or at the very least, that someone would set up something exactly the same in my city. (Anyone?!) I wonder if I could save my pennies and one day, some day, fly over to join in.

Have a really happy weekend X

P.S. Those muffins? Delicious and healthy. Another fabulous recipe from My Darling Lemon Thyme.

17 September 2014

Oh My Goodness This Is So Much Fun!

Oh My Goodness This Is So Much Fun

I had a little "dye-up" over the weekend. Hit by a sudden urge to make some colour I grabbed my remaining undyed yarn or in one case, blah, pale coloured yarn and heated up my pots.

Still fairly haphazard in my approach, arriving at these colourways took a fair bit of playing around. In fact, I really didn't have a plan at all when I started and I wrote absolutely nothing down (it never actually crossed my mind) so these are truly one-off's never to be repeated. 

I'm feeling quite split about me, precision and dyeing. I absolutely loved my very technical colour experiments and it's useful to be able to eye them up and remind myself what proportions make certain colours but, a big part of what I love about dyeing is the unexpected and the freedom to just "make". It might be nice to be able to repeat colourways again if I fall in love with them but then again, I kind of like that I can't. It makes me happy that each one is unique and I love the idea of approaching my dye pots with a completely clean slate each time. 

Oh My Goodness This Is So Much Fun

These skeins were first out of the pot. Starting life as a fairly bland light brown onion colour they took a fair bit of messing about to end up these rather delicious rich rhurbarb shades of red and olive. 

In the process they taught me several things. Firstly, if you add colours willy-nilly you'll eventually arrive at rust coloured yarn. Secondly, you can indeed start to felt yarn when you're dyeing if you fiddle and squeeze it too much. This DK (organic) yarn is a bit stuffed cos it got a bit felted but I think it might be destined to be a little vest so hopefully it'll not matter.

Oh My Goodness This Is So Much Fun

Faced with a pot of teal dye and not wanting to waste it I was struck with the idea of throwing a whole cake of yarn in just as it was. It so happened that a fat cake of chunky yarn was sitting by my side when I had that very thought, so in it went. Of course it wanted to float so I held it under the water with a heavy jar. After what seemed like forever (but was probably more like half an hour) I lifted it out. Sure enough, I'd achieved a gradient-like effect with the yarn slowly fading to white at the centre. It's a bit blotchy all the way through so its not as smooth a gradient as it could be but it's pretty fun. 

I'm wondering what to knit with it? Maybe some sort of wrap. It looks to me like it wants to be angular with slip stitches ...

Oh My Goodness This Is So Much Fun

Dyeing does seem to flow better the longer you spend doing it. At least, that's how it is for me. This last skein dyed as if by magic. It's about 50g of soft merino 4ply left over from knitting a baby cardigan at least 7 years ago, maybe 10. You can see the different effect dye has on superwash wool as opposed to the non-superwash wool in my first picture. The colours are much more vibrant and electric. This aspect of superwash wool has me in a bit of a pickle. I'd rather use non-superwash wool because it is less processed but I think doing so means I'd end up with more muted colourways. Lovely but not necessarily what I'm always after. I'm wondering whether a silk blend would offer some glossiness? Clearly I'll have to experiment and see.

As to this colourway, at one point I found myself rubbing portions of it inside the empty yellow dye jar to get brilliant glimmers of gold. See, techniques like that don't really lend themselves to being repeatable!