selfish stuff

Outfit 1 - The Big Reveal

Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 1

Phew! Outfit 1 is done and I'm super pleased with how it turned out. Cambridge provided the perfect backdrop for the photos - we wandered through some of the colleges and I felt like I'd just leapt out of a wartime spy film :)

Shall we have a quick run through of the pieces?

Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 1 Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 1 Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 1 Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 1

My cardigan is the very lovely pattern Audrey in Unst and I am totally thrilled with how it turned out. The yarn is a delicious blend of hand-dyed baby alpaca, silk and cashmere and it is surprisingly warm :) It's finished with pretty wee shell buttons.

The beret is a vogue pattern sensibly named #13 Lace Beret and I adore the lace pattern and the teal blue alpaca/wool fuzzy yarn.

Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 1

My dress is the Washi dress pattern in cotton Liberty print that I don't think is available any more. I picked mine up on Ebay. It was just too chilly to show my dress off properly, but I'm making a tunic version too (can't resist) so I'll show you that one in more detail soon. My Liberty Washi has capped sleeves, pockets and a keyhole neckline. 

Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 1 Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 1 Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 1 Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 1

My stole is faux fur and I based it on my grandmother's real one :) It's lined with a silky paisley fabric and fastens at the neck by slipping one end through a loop on the underside of the other end.

Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 1

('scuse the legs. Mr Myrtle said it was "great action". The tights are from H&M.)

My ring and my earrings are glass. I've never tried making anything with glass before and I loved it. A couple of friends showed me what to do, then fired my little chunks in their little glass kiln. Alison helped me turn the caramel & cream chunks into earrings by shaping and hammering some stirling silver wire into earring hooks. Aren't they gorgeous! 

Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 1 Handmade Wardrobe 2013 - Outfit 1

So there you have it! Outfit 1 is officially in use. I'd put off wearing any individual items until I'd taken the photos and now, looking at it all together, I'm slightly stunned I managed to get it all done. Although it took a while for the look to evolve, once I figured it out, it flowed pretty well. I loved working on a whole outfit - it gave me a great focus and I'm so glad I decided to make the jewellery too because it was so much fun trying something new on a small scale.

You'll be pleased to hear that Outfit 2 is underway. It's totally different and I'll pop back to give you a run down of my plans soon. All I can say at this stage is, I've discovered Malabrigo. 

(If you're interested, the photos were shot in Clare College, Cambridge. The rather majestic gothic building behind me in some photos is King's College Chapel.  Everybody in Cambridge cycles, so there are bikes everywhere. And yes, most of the tourists about had umbrellas. It wasn't really raining, just English drizzle.)

Audrey in Unst

Outfit 1 2013 - Audrey in Unst

Outfit 1 2013 - Audrey in Unst

Outfit 1 2013 - Audrey in Unst

Outfit 1 2013 - Audrey in Unst

I think this cardigan is the loveliest thing I've made. Maybe ever. Last year my favourite knit was Tess' Bella Mia. I love that little sweater and she's still wearing it, even if it's now on the small side. I've been thinking about that sweater and this cardigan and wondering what it is about them that I love so much. Aside from great patterns (both are stylish, a good fit and have lovely interesting details), I think the common factor is glorious yarn. In this case the Skein Queen yarn is a beautiful caramel coloured baby alpaca, silk and cashmere blend. Divine. The Fyberspates yarn for Bella Mia was a dark plum-coloured merino. Both were hand-dyed. Both are semi-solids. I'm also wondering if I'm a little gaga about fingering weight yarn garments... It's all food for thought and I'm planning another cute cardigan in hand-dyed, semi-solid yarn to test my theory! 

Anyway, my Audrey in Unst is finished. Blocked, 10 shell buttons and ends woven in. She's ready for wearing and I promise I will model her soon. I'm just waiting until I can show you my whole outfit in a grand "Ta da" moment and I'm still working away on the rest of it.

You know how I adore the yarn. I will definitely be getting more Skein Queen :) And, I also enjoyed the pattern. It isn't a mindless knit, but it's not so tricky either. The overall shape is flattering with its deep twisted rib and waist shaping. I love that there's no seaming. The shoulders are finished with a three needle bind off and the arms are picked up at the armholes, the sleeve caps shaped with short rows (which is magic) and then knit down to the deep twisted rib cuffs. The cast off along the button band is a nice detail and I enjoyed the icord bind off around the neck. I hadn't tried that before but would love to use it again. It's interesting, neat and sits well. The final great finishing detail is those 10 buttons. 10 seemed like a lot of buttons, but it really works.

The ravelry page for my cardigan is here. If you're thinking of knitting this one - do!

Paper Pieces

tracing patterns

tracing patterns

Until recently, I cut my sewing patterns to the size I wanted. That is, I chopped straight into the tissue that came in the packet. I just didn't know anything else and anyway, I have to confess, the prep before you start sewing is not my favourite part. I always wash and dry my new fabric, but then there is cutting out the paper pattern, pinning it to the fabric and cutting it out.... it takes ages to get to the fun part, sewing!

I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting to hurry up and get on with it and also, the cutting part feels so FINAL. Especially when I am using beautiful fabric that's sat around for ever waiting for the perfect pattern.... do you have those pieces of fabric too? (and those skeins of yarn?) And, these days, having enough time to get all the pieces laid out, pinned and cut without someone running all over it or wanting to "help" is one of my biggest challenges.

Anyhow. I've turned a new leaf. I've started tracing my pattern pieces from the original AND I am even planning to make a muslin. There are a few reasons why I'm changing my ways. Firsly, I've bought a couple of beautiful Japanese sewing books which include the patterns on a few sheets of paper, all laid one over the other. In order to make any of the patterns you have to first trace the pieces you want. So basically, I have to change. My other reason is that although I suspect I am at more-or-less the size I'm going to be post-babies... nothing is certain, and my shape has changed over the last eleven or so years. So, I'm cutting the size closest to my measurements and will have a play around with a muslin to get the fit as good as possible. That way, if I need to adjust a piece so that part of it is the next size up or down, or if I get bigger or smaller later, I've still got the original to work from. Plus, some of the patterns I've bought recently look so pretty. It seems a shame to cut them up. (I'm thinking that pdf downloads would be a different story. You could just print out the pattern again and again once you had it on your computer... )

While I'd love a roll of proper drafting paper, it doesn't seem to be that easy to come by. I've found some on Amazon, and it's sat in my basket for a while, but it feels a bit expensive and I haven't got round to actually buying it. In the meantime, I'm using good old baking paper. It's handy and fairly transparent, without being too fragile. The downside is that it isn't terribly wide and I've had to cellotape a couple of pieces together to make it wide enough for some of the pattern pieces for my Washi dress. Actually, I ran out of baking paper with only one piece to go... so I grabbed a piece of A3 white paper and used that. It worked ok, but wasn't nearly as easy to see through.

Tracing is pretty straight-forward. I lay my baking paper over the pattern, weigh it down with bits and bobs and draw the outline in pencil in the size I want. I also mark where there are instructions on the pattern piece; like the piece should lay on the fold, the direction of the grain or the little shapes which mark things like where sleeves attach or darts join. The other important information that I include are the names of the pieces, how many of each piece to cut from the fabric or interfacing, and the size I've traced. So far, so good.

So, folks... do you have any tips you'd like to share? Where do you get your tracing paper? And, how do you store your patterns?

ideas in motion

outfit 1 2013

I'm slowly figuring out the best way to approach my handmade wardrobe idea. Last week I'd got as far as thinking that it would be good to make one whole outfit at a time, so I'd have some sort of focus. The idea of randomly firing out cardigans, skirts, hats and dresses, doesn't appeal to me right now. I really like putting outfits together. I tend to go with what feels right, rather than subscribing to any one style or following any prescribed rules about dressing. Are there any these days? I like to mix things up a little, but at the same time, balance out different textures, colours and shapes. LOL! I can see your eyes roll... what sort of mish mash is this lady going to create?! I promise, I'll try not to create too much of an eyesore ;)

Anyhow, my outfit idea has been refined and I'm thinking I'll try to do an outfit a month and I'll use an even mix of knitting and sewing. That might be totally crazy and may change depending on what else is going on in my life, but for now, that's my aim...

So, January. Outfit one. I'm going for the "I'm an artsy woman in touch with her feminine side, off to her evening photography course" vibe ;)

You've seen my caramel delicious Audrey cardigan already. I've fixed the front side and have picked up around the armhole and started working my way down one sleeve. Unusually, I'm using double pointed needles. I started magic looping with a long circular but this yarn is pretty special and I wasn't enjoying yanking it along the long cable or pulling it tight when changing halves. Working around four circulars feels just a little bit smoother and my tension is better. (If you are unfamiliar with the magic loop method of knitting in the round, you might enjoy this link. It's all interesting, but the bit about magic loop starts halfway down the page.)

The floral fabric is a Liberty print cotton that I bought on Ebay. I'm hoping there's enough for a Washi Dress, at the very least a tunic. I haven't decided what style top or sleeves it's going to have, but I'm tending towards the keyhole neck and cap sleeves... If I get a dress out of it, I'm thinking of teaming it with tights and boots.

The teal-blue yarn is gorgeous. It is a 50% Alpaca/50% New Wool blend; Highland Alpaca Fino by smc Select. I decided that the outfit had a breezy feel to it so needed a lightweight beret/cap to go with it. I wanted a lacy look without too many yarn overs, since the cardigan has very open lacework at the top and any more would be overkill. My hunt for the perfect hat revealed a Vogue pattern; No.13 Lace Beret by Kate Gagnon Osborn. It's just lovely. You can't buy it via Ravelry because it is included in a magazine, but a hunt on the Vogue website revealed it there for sale individually. So far I've knit the band and while there's a great chart for the body of the hat, with 50 something rounds of lace, I'm not anticipating it will be super quick.

The rest of the outfit is still in my head. I'm thinking that a slim, fun scarf incorporating faux fur might be on the cards and a big handbag that doubles as a camera bag. At the moment I am in love with this. As for jewellery? I'm still mulling over that one...but I'm tending towards a vintage look.

That's the general idea. With the big kids back to school this week, I just need to start sewing!

lovely Lanata





She's done. Lanata the lovely. What a long haul that was! Do you remember the vote in April when you decided I'd knit her? I started in August but had such a battle with that jolly yoke to get the curvy pattern and the decreases working in harmony. What a performance and, unfortunately, I think it was just me...

I love, love, LOVE the yarn. It's Louisa Harding's Ianthe yarn, a 50/50 merino/cotton mix. It knits like a dream, is smooth and so comfortable to wear. Warm without being hot. And, it's sturdy. After all my ripping, it has just lasted perfectly. You'd never know how hard I've been on it. I'm definitely going to use Ianthe again.

I should have made a smaller size. After these photos and before starting another rather lovely new project, I took the time to measure myself properly. Hmmm, I'm a whole three inches smaller in the bust than I was last time I checked... So this cardy might not have figure hugging curves, but hey, it's so comfy I don't mind. I'm calling it slouchy. I've made mine an inch longer than the pattern suggested, I don't remember why... I must have had some reason at the time... but, anyhow,  I did. So, I've added an extra buttonhole and button to the front band making seven in total.

See in the top shot the gape between the first two buttons? It annoys me. I tried sewing on the second button a couple of times, but I can't seem to get it right. So, I think I'll wear it with just one button done up; that sits better. I have tried buttoning it all up, but that just doesn't work on me. Although there's waist shaping in there I could do with something altogether more fitted and when this cardigan is all buttoned up I look very straight up and down, not such a good look. I'll aim for a more nipped in waist next time. At least I know what my actual waist measurement is now...

My ravelry project page is here.