handmade wardrobe

All The "Alongs" - What I'm Making


There are quite a few "make alongs" happening at the moment and I'm planning a bit of double (and even triple) dipping so I can take part in a few.

I'm hosting the Spoil Yourself "stitch along" this month on Ravelry (you're welcome to join in if you're not already!), Helen is hosting a three month long Handmade Wardrobe Challenge in the Curious Handmade Ravelry group and I'm also taking part in the 1 Year 1 Outift challenge to make an outfit with local materials run by Nicki from This Is Moonlight.


Are you joining in any of these challenges?

My big contribution to the "alongs" is my Gingerbread Sweater. I've been beavering away on it for a while now and look! I'm almost done! Everything has been knitted and blocked - I'm just waiting for those sleeves to dry so I can seam them in! I can't quite believe I've made it this far. The pattern is getting done too - the bones of it are written. It just needs tidying up and grading.

Gingerbread will be my first published sweater. It's been quite a nervous adventure. Despite having designed and knitted a number of garments before, I have been feeling quite wobbly about doing it for real and releasing it to the public.

It's a medium length, boxy sweater with a casual, comfy fullness to the body and slim arms. I went for set in sleeves in the end because I wanted structure at the shoulders to help it fit and fall well. It's knitted bottom up starting with the lace ribbing and the both the body and the sleeves are knitted in the round to the armholes. The sleeve caps and top of the body are knitted flat and then the shoulders are joined with a three needle bind off so the only seaming is the sleeves right at the end. I'm really pleased with the neckband, it's a lovely curve, finished with a narrow band of twisted rib with a rolled top - it's not tricky and ever so effective. 

The various "alongs" have motivated me to swallow my nerves and get it finished! I've loved knitting with the local Romney yarn from Rosewood Wool. It's a coarser yarn than a slinky merino but I love that it feels so rustic. It blooms and softens nicely with blocking and I can see that it's going to just get better and better - both softer and more relaxed without pilling. I think it's a great combination with the style and idea of my Gingerbread sweater - a casual, comfy sweater that you'll reach for day after day after day.


But an outfit isn't just one sweater is it? I've decided to team my Gingerbread sweater with some new jeans. I rather fancy some dark denim jeans and thought I'd have a bash at sewing some. Oh my - I've just noticed the name of the pattern I've chosen - the Ginger jeans ... haha! Obviously it was meant to be!

I haven't tried sewing jeans before but I've heard great reports about this pattern and I'm ready to have a go. I'm not sure which style to try - I'm thinking I'll probably do the medium rise style on the right. I haven't worn high-waisted jeans for many decades - I'm not sure I'm ready to get back into them just yet!

I'll also need a top to wear under my sweater - I might wear one I've just finished or perhaps take the opportunity to make another so I'm prepared for next winter ... we'll see. 

And Jewellery - I think I'll need a necklace or bangle or something to finish it all off ... 

It goes on and on doesn't it?!

Are you joining in any of the challenges and "alongs" I've mentioned? What are you making? Do tell me!

Made Me May

Made Me May

In previous years I've watched Made Me May from the sidelines and often thought I should join in the fun because I wear something I've made almost every day. Every day if you count jewellery and bags. 

This year I thought I'd play along too. After all, I'm a huge fan of handmade clothes and bags and ... well, everything! It felt especially relevant this year since I've been doing lots of talking about creating a handmade wardrobe in my monthly newsletters and so many of you have told me how inspired you're feeling about knitting and sewing things for yourselves.

Made Me May was an idea dreamed up by Zoe on her blog So, Zo... What do you know? in 2012. The idea is to wear handmade clothes through the month of May and wear them frequently and with pride. Sounds great doesn't it? It isn't a competition or cause to become stressed and worried that you've not got enough handmade clothes. It's a celebration of handmade and the things you've already made and I love that idea.

I haven't made a specific pledge although I guess I'm secretly aiming to wear handmade clothes every single day in May. I'm documenting my progress with photos that I'm posting to Facebook and Instagram and so far I'm enjoying myself immensely. It's great to take a fresh look at clothes I've made myself and think about how I'll wear them together, how I'll style them and what else I fancy making.

Made Me May

I'm loving seeing what other people are wearing too - it's super inspiring. Check out two hashtags on Instagram: #mmmay15 and #madememay to see all the handmade goodness. It's wonderful how many people are joining in.

It's day 5 today (well it is here in New Zealand - It might still be day 4 where you are!) so you've still got loads of time to join in too. Pull out those handmade bits from your wardrobe and pop them on! Don't forget to wear them with pride!

I've noticing a lack of wintery things in my wardrobe with the weather turning a little cooler and me determined to wear all my handmade things, so I've decided to make a special effort to finish the sweater in my photos (See my Ravelry page for details) and get behind my sewing machine.

I've developed a terrible habit lately of rummaging through my fabric stash and pulling out pieces of fabric I'd like to use, washing them and then folding them in piles near my sewing machine. The piles are starting to get a little out of control! These two bits are on top of my most recent pile. Some gorgeous plum/pink stretch knit that will make a fantastic sweatshirt and some beautiful Marimekko linen that's crying out to be used. I'm thinking it might become a Scout Tee.

So, tell me - are you playing Made Me May?

The Big Reveal! Summer Outfit 1

The Big Reveal! Summer Outfit 1

I had to call this post "The Big Reveal" so we could have a little chuckle and remember back to my Handmade Wardrobe challenge in 2013.  Ah, wasn't it so much fun?! Crazy busy but fun. I'm not sure if I'll manage to make a whole outfit every month ever again but I'm so glad I did for so many months that year - I've absolutely lived in those clothes. It surprised me how well the outfits coordinated with each other - I'll tell you all about it sometime ...

Anyhow, here we have my first finished summer outfit. I'm both amazed that I've actually done it and super pleased that I have.

The Big Reveal! Summer Outfit 1

The Big Reveal! Summer Outfit 1

Of course my Washi top took all of fifteen minutes to finish. I hand-stitched the seam, catching it ever so carefully so you can't see the stitching from the outside and gave it a press.

It's a lovely fit across the chest and I've taken some width out from the waist/hip region so it is a little narrower which works better for me. No pockets this time which I'm kind of missing although they'd probably look silly. I'm wondering about a slightly longer, lightweight, tunic version with a simple scooped neckline and colourful pockets ...

The Big Reveal! Summer Outfit 1

It's hard to see the detail on my Moss skirt because it's so dark. The fly worked pretty well although I would like to try it again with lighter fabric. The drill was so thick layer upon layer and my poor sewing machine didn't much like it. I didn't even try a button hole in the waistband. Instead I used a trouser hook and bar to hold the waistband closed.

It's a groovy, comfortable wee skirt if you don't mind having all your legs on show. I made the shorter version of the skirt and I like the details such as the yoke at the back and the angled pockets. I didn't do any top stitching but I think I'd like to try some on another skirt.

I did find however that the skirt came up a little large on me. I could have gone down a couple of sizes and took a chunk out of both sides before I attached the waistband. It wasn't the pattern - it was me. When trying to work out which size to make I found my waist measured four whole sizes larger than my hips. Worried that it wouldn't fit if I made the smaller size I cut out the larger one. Now I've made the skirt I realise that it goes nowhere near my waist. It sits right down on my hips. Next time I'll go with the smaller size.

The Big Reveal! Summer Outfit 1

My necklace is fun. I bought the beads on Etsy a couple of years ago and the black beads and leather cord were from my stash. 

I tried a couple of ways of string the beads. Initially I thought I'd string them simply on the leather but it wouldn't fit through the holes on the beads! That's when I added the black beads, trying first one then two between each wooden piece. Two worked better and I added a couple more on each end too. All the beads are strung onto some clear plastic jewellery "wire". I made a small loop at each end and tied my leather cord to each loop with a long tail so I could knot the cord for several inches up itself. The knots are slightly haphard and look a little like crochet. 

I'm the worst critic of my own creatiions. I wasn't sure about the necklace as I made it. Would it look ok? Would it look totally amateur? I tried to look at it as if I was viewing it in a shop. Would I like it then? In the end I decided I would, in a "tribal" meets "urban" sort of way.

Well, I'm so pleased that I've finally got something new to wear this summer. Let's hope the good weather stays around for a while because I'm itching for more summer clothes now! 

Pins - The Pointy Kind

Pins - The Pointy Kind

I've nearly finished the top for my next outfit. It's just waiting for a hem which I'm planning on sewing once I've sewn my skirt so that it's just the right length.

Pins - The Pointy Kind Pins - The Pointy Kind

It really didn't need much work to get this top to the "nearly finished except for the hem" stage. I can't believe that it has sat around for so long waiting. I'd dyed the cotton for the bias binding around the armholes a long time ago - all it needed was to be cut into bias binding and attached!

Pins - The Pointy Kind
Pins - The Pointy Kind

I've mostly stuck to the Washi dress pattern as it comes, other than taking some of the width out of the body fabric from under the bodice down to the seam. The end result is slimmer and less roomy over my middle and hips.

I'm rather keen on my contrasting yellow bias around the armholes. Because I dyed it myself the fabric isn't a perfect solid but slightly tonal and I like that. I'm imagining it gives it a more "bespoke" vibe (even if no one sees it!).

I actually could've taken a little more fabric out from under the arms to get an even better fit. I think I've changed shape slightly since first cutting the top out last year. But, it's ok as is, perfectly wearable.

I'm also not entirely sure that I like the stiffness in the neck facing. The fabric is a slightly weighty woven quilting cotton and the extra facing seems a bit of overkill around the neck. It just feels a bit formal for a tank top. It crossed my mind that I could take it off and re-face the neck but I couldn't bring myself to make the extra effort - this top might never get finished if I start doing things like that!

Pins - The Pointy Kind

You can see in the pictures how I attached my binding. I first pinned the right sides of my fabric together and then sewed, flipped, ironed, folded and ironed (again) the binding inside the armholes, pinned it again and then hand-sewed it down. While I was pinning it occurred to me that you might enjoy a quick chat about pins.

Once upon a time, I learnt to sew by copying my mum. That meant, I pinned my sewing just like she did and she probably pinned hers just like her mum and so on. Roll on a couple of decades and the internet and I started to notice that other people pinned their sewing a little differently. They placed their pins into fabric perpendicular to their seams whereas I had always pinned my parallel to my seams. Of course this made me curious and so I set out to find out if whether there was a difference.

Pins - The Pointy Kind

Well, it turns out, there just might be.

There is apparently an adage that goes something like: "use your pins like a stitch". That is, use them to hold your fabric firmly in exactly the right spot just like a stitch would. Some people would argue that the best way to achieve this is to pin your fabric perpendicularly to your seam - not the parallel pinning that I'd always done. So, I did some experimenting while machine sewing and hand-sewing my most recent armhole binding and I placed some pins parallel to my seams and some perpendicular to my seams ... 

What did I find out?
  • it's a little easier to manipulate your machine sewing when you're pinning perpendicular to your seam but easier to hold the fabric and pins when you're hand-sewing if your pins are parallel to your seam;
  • the perpendicular pins can stay in for longer when you're machine sewing; 
  • if you run over a perpendicular pin with your machine by accident it's unlikely to be a big problem that breaks your needle;
  • you can use heaps more pins to keep things in place if you pin them perpendicularly
  • there seems less chance of being pricked with pins placed perpendicular to your seam when you're machine sewing but more chance when you're hand-sewing;
  • you can accidentally pin your pins into your fabric upside down if you place pins parallel to your seam and that means you either have to turn them all around or stop your sewing machine well before your pin so you can take it out and that defeats that point of your pin!
  • old habits die hard and new things feel strange for a while.
So, overall? I liked the perpendicular pinning for machine sewing and my old method of placing my pins parallel to my seams when I'm hand-sewing.

What about you? 

Are you particular about your pinning? Parallel or perpendicular? (confused by all the P's?!)

P.S. I was interviewed by Joanna on The Knitographer today! I'm over there chatting about Truly Myrtle, new designs and my creative process, if you fancy a read.



Oh my goodness. The Outfit is going awry. Check it out. I tried to get the colours as accurate as I could but everything still looks a little greyer than it does in real life. Think pitch black. BLACK.

I actually dyed both the fabric and the shoes twice. The first time I bought a small packet of black dye for the washing machine and a bag of salt and chucked it all in. Around and around they span and looking through the door (front loader) I was hopeful. But when they came out and then dried, my hopes were dashed. The shoes were ok-ish but a bit motley but the fabric was a solid olive green. Far from the grey I was after. Bother.

It took another week to get more dye and then a bit longer to get them back in the machine. I hunted for grey dye but couldn't find any and settled for more black. To be on the safe side I bought a bigger packet and I tentatively thought I could just keep adding more until it all turned out perfectly.

The story goes downhill at this point. One day, whilst trying to do a million and one other things at the same time (most likely cook dinner, supervise homework, sweep the kitchen floor and talk on the phone) I was struck with the thought that I'd do a quick dye job while the washing machine was free ... Dumb idea because in the chaos I decided to chuck the whole large packet of dye in to save mucking about with copious dye jobs. 

You can imagine what happened. In fact, you can see what happened. The whole belly lot went blacker than black except for the stitching on the shoes which is still too light, the rubber soles which are a decidedly dodgy shades of blue and the elastic which looks worse with the stains even more noticeable. The shoes are a disaster!

I'm trying to talk myself into the fabric. After all, everyone wears black in New Zealand, I wouldn't be out of place? Except I haven't worn black for years. I embrace colour and frills and sequins these days. I'm not sure whether I want a black skirt. Maybe with some top-stitching? Dunno. That might just look odd. 

I think I'll have to take the plunge and see how it goes. I don't think I can do anything to lighten my black fabric and I really don't want to buy more. This is it. I'll have to make it work!

Make me feel better. Tell me about your dyeing disasters!