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Monthly Archives: January 2013

jarring thoughts

Turns out it's not about the wearability for work but using this fabric

Turns out it’s not about the wearability or suitability for work but about finally using this lovely fabric (and I do need a decent, pretty blouse for work)

I’ve been thinking about my reSewlution “to make a new blouse for me that’s suitable to wear to work”. That doesn’t sound terribly difficult. In fact, I made four tops last year that might not have been intended for work but have been worn to work. So perhaps what I really meant was that I want to use that lovely piece of blue rayon with the flowers on it to make a top for work and do a really good job of it, because the others were all problematic in one way or another and none of them – none! – is as well finished as it should be.

I haven’t let that stop me from using them but I’m always aware that the hem on one isn’t entirely straight, the neckband on another is dodgy as all get out, the sleeves on a third are a very long way from perfect, and the other one just doesn’t fit as well as it should because I used a fabric with too little stretch. But I have no shame: I wear them anyway. From the outside, they don’t look too bad (and, let’s face it, not too many people are going to be inspecting the inside). One of them has a brilliant neckline, another looks (and is) light and summery, one is, as it turns out, understated and highly suitable for work and the one I made to wear to a wedding, while done in the biggest hurry of all, still looks quite presentable despite the several shortcomings – they’re more like longcomings, really! – in fit and finish. (Yes, I have worn it to work, separate from its accompanying skirt, on a couple of occasions where I was attending a function after work.)

I mean, just how dodgy is that neckline? Don't you wonder how I can bear to wear it in public!

I mean, just how dodgy is that neckline? Don’t you wonder how I can bear to wear it in public!

Having thus berated myself for being sloppy, I should point out that three of those tops are made from knit fabric, part of whose charm (if you didn’t know) is that, actually, you don’t NEED to finish off seams the way you would with a woven fabric. They won’t fray or unravel if you just leave them raw and sometimes you do leave them raw for effect. All the same, I’m sure a spot more overlocking wouldn’t have gone astray on any of them. That’s particularly true for the one that’s not a knit so much as a stretch satin and, really, it does fray.

My intention for that piece of blue-with-flowers fabric – recently, anyway; it’s been in my stash for a very long time – had been to use it to make another of the easy kimono-style T-shirts but there’s another top in my wardrobe which I actually prefer for a variety of reasons. It has reached a point of being beyond respectability (it’s nearly as old as YoungB and I wear it a lot). I might use it to trace a pattern then try really, really hard not to mess up when I make that top for work, the pretty one that I’ve been promising myself for years!

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Sewing

 

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drawing both breath and the Pattern Pyramid giveaway

We’ve had a busy few days. They happen. So, apologies, but it’s taken longer than I anticipated to draw the Pattern Pyramid Giveaway. It did take a bit of thought and organisation. I don’t have a random number generator; but there were not dozens of entries, so I went manual. That meant finding a box to put the slips of paper into. You know how you can never find anything when you need it? All my suitable boxes were in use, but two were readily to hand. One contained completed hearts.

Knitted hearts, all ready for yarn bombing

Knitted hearts, all ready for yarn bombing

The other contained yarn for further hearts.

Enough yarn for quite a few more hearts

Enough yarn for quite a few more hearts

I tipped out the yarn, scrunched all the names and put them into that box.

As you can see, there were not TOO many to scrunch up

As you can see, there were not TOO many to scrunch up

Then I asked YoungB to pick a name, any name. And the winner is:

Amie! (I think YoungB will probably have a word or two to say about that unflattering angle...)

Amie! (Sorry about the typo in your name; and I think YoungB will probably have a word or two to say about that unflattering angle…)

Congratulations, Amie. I couldn’t find a contact email address on your blog, so I’m leaving a comment on your latest post. (Apologies for the appalling quality of the pics, they were all taken late at night on my phone which does not have a flash. I think the essential information is at least legible.)

As well as making a few more hearts and some roses as and when the mood takes me, I’m contemporaneously knitting a cowl and a scarf; each has something different to recommend it in terms of portability and neither is much good for watching TV. Ain’t that always the way?

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2013 in Knitting, Sewing

 

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effective even if inelegant

Today Dr B has gone out motorcycling with an old schoolmate. He’s wearing his RST jeans with their armour inserts. The replacement pocket I made works beautifully, he said. Great. And because he couldn’t find his own toob and YoungB isn’t using his, he’s also wearing that black toob I made for YoungB. Warms the cockles of your heart. They take it very much for granted that I can and/or will do these things for them but I don’t mind being an everyday, functional part of their lives. Yesterday, I did a spot of handsewing for Dr B, repairing a couple of splits on his motorcycling inner gloves. It’s not classy stuff and perhaps the sewing could have been neater – I mean, black thread on black fabric and small seams with a tricky curve combined with ageing fingers! –  but it does the job.

By way of a little footnote to yesterday’s post, that fabric I used for the replacement pocket is some of the leftovers from two of Dr B’s cycling bandannas and there have been several lavender bags made from it as well. Not a lot goes to waste in our house, unless it’s so old and worn it’s not worth recycling (even then, I’ve been known to chop it up to use as stuffing for door stoppers and cushions). Ideally, you would hope I might have made that pocket out of an old, white, cotton sheet. Any of those that we have are very old indeed (we’re talking in excess of 50 years).

I thought that, as long as it was sturdy cotton, then what it looked like when it was inside the jeans mattered not. Who was going to see it to comment? Dr B is delighted. He asked, in fact, if I could make some pockets for YoungB to attach to his Draggins, which don’t come so equipped. That means I’d have to put velcro on the jeans as well as the pockets. That would mean sewing four lots of velcro! I’ve passed on that for now; but if I find a good way of sewing velcro, I’ll bump it up the priority list. There’s no harm at all in providing motorcyclists with as much protection as possible.

Meanwhile, it’s Australia Day and I have the house to myself for a few hours. Aha! This might be just the opportunity for a spot of sewing for me! How do you plan to spend the day?

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2013 in Cycling, Motorcycling, Sewing

 

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sewing velcro

Does anyone have any good tips for machine-sewing velcro? I was faced with having to do so for a mercy mission I was undertaking for Dr B’s RST motorcycling jeans (re-creating a pocket for holding the hip armour; somehow, Dr B had lost one and I didn’t want to unpick the remaining one to nut out the order of construction) and, OMG, the unladylike language issuing forth from my sewing room. I’ve sewn velcro in the past, I know I have. But, on reflection, it’s always been stick-on stuff that I’ve then secured by judicious handsewing. I did everything I could think of: changed my presser foot and the needle; used different thread; swapped the “new” bobbin for one I knew to be an original, just in case the newer bobbin was somehow not quite right; and tinkered with tension and stitch length, all to no avail. What a mess.

Everything about this is bad, but it will do the job and I think that's probably enough!

Everything about this is bad, but it will do the job and I think that’s probably enough!

I finally called it quits because I could see there’d be no improving the situation (and because, despite my care, I’d somehow managed to sew the left “pocket” so that it was the same as the right one; there’s meant to be a slight difference). I’d also sewn on the wrong side of velcro to start with – you know, attached a smooth bit when I needed a hooky bit – and that was problematic, but I’d done it. Then I had to unpick it, which I did, muttering greatly all the while. But trying to do the velcro the second time around – yep, I did use the hooky side, so that was right at least! – finally did me in.

I’m sure there are plenty of good tips online but, well, my computer is down one end of the house and my sewing machine down the other, so, you know, I was sewing. Now I’m not! So DOES anyone have any foolproof tips? Thanks in advance from one very exasperated sewist.

In other, utterly unrelated news, we went to our local park to watch the TDU Bupa Challenge riders head out, helped along by a brisk tailwind. Usually Dr B and YoungB would be riding in it, and probably a couple of other family members; but this year it was always going to be tricky (YoungB, for example, is coaching today in quite the other direction). Still, as the park is walking distance from where we live, it would have been a great opportunity missed had we not made the effort. We went back to watch the professionals a few hours later. By then the tailwind had disappeared and the sunshine warmed us up nicely. Aren’t we lucky to have such world-class events right at our doorstep?

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2013 in Cycling, Motorcycling, Sewing

 

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broadly brilliant

Someone asked me recently if YoungB had got what he wanted out of high school. By way of reply, I recounted YoungB’s Year 7 mantra of, “A good-looking chick on each arm, head prefect and rowing captain.” Lest you accuse him of utter sexism, I explain that that helped him to focus when one of his erstwhile mates, already a successful sportsman, turned on him and started being an utter pr*ck. YoungB wanted to return to that primary school, or perhaps to somewhere where that erstwhile mate was at school, and show him that, hey, being flatfooted and colourblind wasn’t the end of the world, after all, and that he, too, could achieve in a sporting arena AND be successful with girls.

It might have been spectacularly politically incorrect but I didn’t care. I told him that, if that worked for him, to go for it. I’d have to say that he certainly came close. He didn’t quite make the head prefect bit though he was a prefect; and he was rowing captain twice. Not bad work at all. So, yes, I think you could say that YoungB did get what he wanted out of high school. Mind you, he’s forgotten all about that mantra! He looked at me as if he thought I were making it up when I reminded him of it only the other day. Luckily for my credibility, Dr B was able to confirm it.

Did he get what WE wanted? Yes, I think he did. Those achievements were pleasing to us, too, and as I’ve said before, he had a string of other leadership roles throughout his high school years that assured us that he was not just having a good time; he was contributing to his community. The school has a human rights focus and a large multi-ethnic student body (Greeks form the single largest ethnic group and Asians – a bit generically, I know, because there are many folk in that broad sweep descriptor – come close behind) and he had friendships across the whole gamut of represented ethnic groups.

And what were some of things that were so good about those five years? They started with the transition day at the end of Year 7 and kept right on rolling through Year 8 orientation camp and trying out all those sports offered within the school. The Year 8 Head of the River rowing regatta was the first foray into the serious fun of the sport (the serious competition happens at other regattas). Year 9 camp was good, too, providing lots more leadership and sporting activities. There were many excellent teachers. Of course, there were some less than excellent teachers and some subjects that were not as useful as we’d hoped they might be; opinions regarding both of those sometimes changed as YoungB matured and was able to get over his immediate dislike and/or resistance. Life is like that. There were several significant celebrations for the school and it was great that YoungB was there to be part of them: the school’s centenary, an interstate exchange centenary, the rowing club centenary (and he was captain in that year), so he’s been fortunate enough to have had some special and exciting times and to have contributed to the school’s history.

Let’s not forget that out of high school came rowing as a lifestyle and cycling as something similar. We have all benefited from YoungB’s high school education!

Now? It’s on to university studies and all the thrill and excitement of that new lifestyle. Will he get what he wants there? As long as he puts in a good effort, I’m sure he will. Dr B keeps telling YoungB that uni is a lot of fun. That’s certainly not my memory of it and I think Dr B’s view is coloured by distance and the fact that, as a mature age student, he went in one door and stayed behind it for the years of his degree, in a manner of speaking. He was focused and from the outset had a clear goal. I didn’t. YoungB does not. But many of his friends will be attending uni, too, and he’ll bump into some old friends – and perhaps foes – as well.

If he meets up with that erstwhile mate who was such a pr*ck? I think YoungB will be secure enough about his own achievements that he won’t care a whit what that erstwhile mate might or might not think of him; if there’s no blip on your radar, you don’t take any notice. Or they might both look beyond all that adolescent insecurity and find that, actually, they can be mates again. Perhaps that’s one very valuable lesson that he’s learnt: some people are not worth expending effort and energy on but it’s OK to re-evaluate at any time if circumstances dictate. Isn’t that a good sort of philosophy for life in general?

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Cycling, Musing, Rowing

 

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hearts for Valentine’s Day

It’s another yarn bombing exercise. I had a pattern for a crocheted heart but my attempt at it was an absolute disaster. The pattern was fine, I’m sure. The problem lay with my abilities, or lack of them, as a crocheter. I should dedicate more time to improving my crochet skills, I know, but not when I’m on a couple of deadlines.

I thought I could perhaps adapt the pattern to knitted format. Firstly, I did a literal translation. The resulting heart looked enough like a heart that you’d get the idea – I made two, anyway – but I wasn’t in love with the shape. So, using that knitted translation as a base pattern, I made up one of my own with a slightly better length for the width and a rounder top. Dr B liked the result and picked my version as being more like a heart. Good enough for me.

Stuffed heart made to knitted version of crochet pattern. Not a good shape. Flat heart made to my adaptation from crochet pattern. Thumbs up.

Stuffed heart made to knitted version of crochet pattern. Not a good shape. Flat heart made to my adaptation from crochet pattern. Thumbs up.

Today I’ve made another to match “my” heart and two larger hearts (merely a matter of thicker yarn on larger needles). I’ve crocheted the original two together and the first pair made to my pattern, stuffed them with craft fibre and considered them a job well done.

Two sizes of hearts made to adjusted pattern

Two sizes of hearts made to adjusted pattern

I might get the third one done tonight, but there are other tasks that now have higher priority. The hearts will wait. They look all right, though.

With both shapes stuffed, it's easier to see that the adjusted pattern gives a better shape

With both shapes stuffed, it’s easier to see that the adjusted pattern gives a better shape

Because I didn’t want to mess up what I was doing, I actually wrote out the pattern properly and everything. I’d be happy to share if anyone would like it. Otherwise, I’ll just press on with making a few more. I rather heart easy projects, don’t you?

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2013 in Crochet, Knitting

 

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Pattern Pyramid

#* THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED*#
AMIE, of LET’S BE AMIE, was the lucky blogger

Right, then, let’s get this going, shall we? Thanks to Karen in the first place (and Catherine before her, of course) and Show and Tell Meg more directly, I received a packet of lovelies (wonderfully clear photos and details over at Show and Tell; I suggest you check them there) by mail shortly before the end of last year. Also included were a couple of lovely notions; the zipper really caught my eye because it’s blue and would match one of my stash fabrics. Aha!

How lucky am I to get a beautiful blue zip? Plus, that's the pattern I decided to keep

How lucky am I to get a beautiful blue zip? Plus, that’s the pattern I decided to keep

With one thing and another, it has taken me a while to get around to doing much about the Pyramid. Although I’d originally hankered for a dress pattern, the McCalls 2546, sober assessment of the collection leaves me thinking that, really, a better option for me is the muumuu! It could be made to fit; and if I were to use a knit fabric, I could get away without zips (not my biggest sewing nightmare but not my favourite thing, either – although I have plans for that lovely blue baby). Given our present Rather Warm weather, a quick muumuu might be a very good idea: looser, and therefore cooler, than a maxi dress but still cheerful and fun.

I’m adding in these two Weigel’s patterns into the Pyramid; they’re an old Aussie brand.

Weigel's pattern 1897

Weigel’s pattern 1897

1897 is a pattern for pyjamas in two styles to fit a 12 year old (or 30″ bust).

Weigel's pattern 1524

Weigel’s pattern 1524

1524 is a pattern for an easy-to-make housecoat, size small (or 32 – 34″ bust)

Anyway, on with the business – I mean fun – side of things!

To Enter The Giveaway: 

  1. Leave a comment on this blog post saying which pattern you would keep if you win! [If you’re like me, you might find you’ll be changing your mind about that.] Anyone anywhere can enter the giveaway but you must have an active blog.
  2. The winner must agree to pick 1 pattern for him/herself then host a giveaway; and, obviously, be OK with sending the rest off to any corner of the world. This started off in England and has already made it to almost every continent [hello, anyone out there in Antarctica?].
  3. You must have a blog of your own to host the giveaway of the extra patterns.
  4. If you are a winner, please consider making a donation to The Brooke, a charity dear to the heart of Catherine who generously provided these patterns.
  5. When you make your item, be sure to post about it so we can all drool over it 🙂

This giveaway will close at on Monday, 28 January 2013 at 11:59pm South Australian time – that is, Central Daylight Savings [or Adelaide] Time. That should be plenty of time, I hope, for you to spread the word among the blogging community. Be sure you enter before then to make sure you’re eligible.  And, if you are a day behind that time and you want to participate in this giveaway, please also BE SURE TO CHECK THE TIME DIFFERENCE CAREFULLY. I wouldn’t like anyone to miss out!

Only one entry per commenter, so additional comments won’t earn extra chances (and if you want to comment but not participate, you need only say so). I will also make sure to add in a surprise or two for the winner 🙂 Please spread the word on this one: tell your friends! We want as many people as possible to get involved in this wonderful opportunity 🙂 And remember, the winner gets one of those fabulous Pattern Pyramid tags to use in their make. Now, if you needed more incentive to participate, I can’t think what it would be. Good luck!

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Sewing

 

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briefly about the Pattern Pyramid

In case you’re thinking my part of this has disappeared into the void, I assure you it hasn’t. I apologise for the delays but things are still a bit nuts here. I’ll try to get it all sorted out tomorrow.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2013 in Sewing

 

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stress differentials

Eldest Aunt spent Christmas with us and at one stage she and I were talking about dressmaking. I was interested to hear that she’d actually made a lot of her own clothes when she was at school. I wasn’t altogether surprised though, because she’d attended a girls’ technical high school and dressmaking was a compulsory subject throughout her years there. However, I was startled when she admitted that she’d never worn anything she’d made because, according to her, she’s always been such a perfectionist that none of it had ever been good enough. I’ll bet it would have been at least as good as anything RTW that she might have bought; and I am quite certain that insecurity rather than perfectionism drove her refusal to wear anything she’d made (I accept that some might posit a case for perfectionism springing from insecurity and/or vice versa). I was curious as to why she hadn’t been forced to do so (money having been expended on purchasing the fabric, you would have thought) and, yes, aghast at the wastefulness.

In my family, if money had been spent on buying fabric to make clothes, you jolly well wore them whether you liked them or not. Having said that, I should point out that most of the clothes were made by Great Aunt, whose sewing if not perfect was certainly excellent and highly professional. I have a wonderful dressing-gown sleeve lurking in the scrap bag I inherited from her. For some reason, she must have cut something wrongly, because I know that the matching dressing gown (Youngest Aunt’s, I seem to recall) had the requisite number of sleeves. But the seams are beautifully flat-felled and so neat that I keep that little sleeve to provide inspiration. Everything Great Aunt did was of that calibre, whether it was her sewing, knitting or embroidery.

As to not wearing things, I recall having an absolute meltdown over a particularly hated hat – no, not one that anyone had made, just one that I hated – but in those days, hats were obligatory apparel for women in churches so I had little choice but to wear it. It would not have occurred to me that refusing to wear a handmade article of clothing was ever an option. It wasn’t an option. There was a new garment that had been made, which fitted because of care taken with measurements before and during the making; and, heck, who could argue with the professional finish on those woollen dresses with vintage lace collars?

You could disagree as much as you liked with the fashion that dictated crimplene as a fabric of choice, but the dress made from it? You wore it. You could dislike the styles of the day, as I frequently did, but if a new dress had been made from a current pattern, whether it be something for Sunday best or merely a school uniform? You wore it, no matter what. And I did. Maybe, in spite of my more rebellious nature, I knew when I’d be backing a loser by even attempting to refuse to wear a handmade dress, whereas Eldest Aunt clearly won her quiet battle.

I may have been spoilt, having so many handmade clothes. I probably was. Other people my age, the majority of whom wore RTW clothes but perhaps a greater percentage of handknits than today’s youth, were in no way jealous; mostly, they were dismissive of things that were not shop-bought. The world is a strange place and seems to have come full circle. For years, YoungB was happy to wear things I’d made for him, even pleading with me occasionally TO make things for him (“Could you make me a Ninja helmet, Mummy? Today?” Black knitting, at night. Aagh! That’s the one on the left below; both made using my go-to Patons balaclava pattern).

A popular item, the black balaclava, even if you’re not a bank-robber!

It’s not so very long ago that he was as excited to get new track trousers I’d sewn as he might these days be to take delivery of new motorcycle leathers. And his present genuine appreciation of, for example, his grey sweatshirt, recent PJ trousers and the right-hand black balaclava (same pattern, different size, different yarn) to wear under his motorcycle helmet, or the toob that was even more useful for motorcycling purposes, represents one of those strange turnarounds that make life such an exciting challenge.

I have had dips and swings in my dedication to things handmade if it meant I had to make them myself but I’ve never really stopped. Eldest Aunt now neither sews nor knits because she finds those activitiees too stressful. She channels her energies into yoga and a cafe lifesyle because that’s what helps her to deal with stress. Me? I pick up my knitting or I go and sew a few lavender bags. What about you?

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2013 in Knitting, Musing, Sewing

 

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an old FO

Some readers might recall that I made bunting for Middle Aunt and Uncle’s Christmas present in 2011. Due to technical problems and because I hadn’t photographed it in action prior to sending it off to its recipients, I only blogged about it referentially. Here’s a photo of some of it in action in 2012.

Helping to decorate Middle Aunt's outdoor eating area

Helping to decorate Middle Aunt’s outdoor eating area

I made 48 such flags – two string of 24 each – and they’re double-sided, so that whichever way you hang them, there’s a pattern. The bias tape I used to connect them was made from some old fabric I’d had lying around for quite a while (and from which I’d made boardies for YoungB when he was at primary school). I used Colette Patterns’ tutorial for making continuous bias.

I made a string of these for Eldest Nephew as well, though his used different fabric and I made the mistake of choosing one fabric with a one-way design. I used it both ways, anyway, and made sure that the direction alternated so that it looked deliberate. Well, it was! He hasn’t complained. (Maybe he’s too scared to do so but in reality, I doubt if he’s even noticed.)

Right, well, back to current crafting. Yeah, not much progress on any of that! But I’m sure there will be eventually. I hope you’re managing to churn out project after project.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2013 in Sewing

 

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