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Category Archives: Sewing

getting another run

Wedding bunting

A bit wrinkled after more than two years in storage, but still looking fabulously festive 🙂

Middle Niece was married on Friday. The reception was held at her parents’ house, under a marquee on the back lawn. Among the decorations? The photo is a little blurry – phone cameras have their limitations, after all – but I’m sure you’ll get the general idea. It was lovely to see the made-by-me bunting adorning another celebration. This space was smaller than the previous one, with a steeper ceiling pitch, so the bunting appeared much denser and it certainly draped differently.

On the subject of matters crafty, I’m still knitting the scrappy scarf or shawl. It’s making progress. I’ve decided to embrace the knot. There seem to be many in the yarn I’m using and there’s a limit to my patience for dealing with them. My theory is that you’d be hard pushed to notice the occasional bump when the scarf is tucked under a coat collar, as is likely to be its final destination.

Also, I’ve booked to attend a beginners’ weaving course. It’s being held near the town where I grew up, so Dr B and YoungB will cycle the Riesling Trail (more info) while I learn all about looms, weft and warp and other wondrous new terms.

Whatever you’ve been doing, I hope your plans are all turning out exactly as you’d expected. Mine never do; but I hope yours are!

 

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then, before you can say Jack Robinson…

…or knife, or whatever your favourite similar expression might be, it’s February! OK, there are two days remaining in January, to be technical and pedantic. But they’ll be gone before – see above.

excavator001

This year already feels a bit as if that excavator has had a go at it! Photo taken late last century. Dr B on the left wearing that wondrous jumper I knitted for him 🙂

Life has been hectic and full of small and not-so-small sideswipes that seem hideously unfair in many instances but totally expected (in a bigger picture way) in others. Nonetheless, you can’t help muttering with a fair degree of frequency, “Things can only get better.”

You mutter that particularly frequently with regard to technology but, you know? So far, not so much. It’s nicknamed “Cayman Mal’s Fraudband” for good reason.

Yeah, it seems that 2018 is already shaping up to be another of those years.

That’s not to imply that we didn’t have an enjoyable festive break. It’s also not to imply that I’ve actually taken down the Christmas cards. We’ve had a hot week, then today is so cool that I’m reaching for a cardigan and thinking that summer is over. It’s not. We’ll have more hot weather, but the mornings are starting to draw in; something we’d notice even more were YoungB still rowing. We miss that for all sorts of reasons but the early mornings don’t feature among them!

I have a couple of sewing projects that I should be turning my mind to – that new summer nightie that I wrote about ages ago? Yeah, I never did get around to doing that! – and there are always rescue missions on old and well-loved garments. The trouble mostly is that they are, in fact, old. Then the question becomes, how many times can you mend a jacket? And even if you can, should you?

I have one RTW jacket that was in time-out towards the end of last year because I’d had enough of mending it. After 20-plus years of hard work, it owed me nothing. But it’s a good cut, the best in-between weight jacket I own, and I needed it for work. So I mended it. Again. Ideally, I should unpick it and use it as a template. I’m not sure I have the space for that, but it appeals to me as a good option for ending up with a jacket that I can wear for much of the year. And I could spice it up by lining it with guitar-playing skeletons, couldn’t I? (I have some fabric like that in my stash, honest.)

Then there’s the, “I feel a mitten-knitting orgy coming on” urge that often hits at this time of year (as ridiculous as that sounds when the mere thought of woollen yarn makes hands sweat). The attraction of the idea is that there’s still some daylight when I get home after work, so I’m much more likely to be able to see what I’m doing. That improves my chances of completing things, particularly darker items. So if I start now, whether on something new or one of the many WIPs, I might have something ready to go when those winter birthdays roll around.

Also, I need some crochet to work on while I’m watching TV. I don’t watch TV often but, when I do, I find it difficult to just sit there. I make too many mistakes if I try to knit at the same time but I can manage simple crochet. So I’m off to dig up another lot of stash yarn to do a knee rug to take to work. Oh, wait, didn’t I say that once before?! I promise to stop earlier with this one; or make separate granny squares so that it’s a better commuter project.

Whatever the status of your year, I hope it’s providing you with plenty of crafting opportunities.

 

 

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what was going to be and what was

It ended up looking a bit like this but not really, mostly because I was wearing it 🙂

This is what it was going to be. I love the pattern and the range of style options. It’s elegant enough for a wedding but not intimidatingly difficult. However, tracing and cutting required more space than I presently have or can create. This is what it ended up being. I’ve made it at least twice before, all the pattern pieces were already cut out and it is indeed an easy sew. It is, however, a 1980’s pattern, which means quite loose-fitting. Perfect. I wanted something more fitted. I measured carefully and reread the instructions, as well as measuring an RTW dress I use for work to ensure that the finished measurements wouldn’t be indecently tight. It worked out well. Both Dr B and YoungB were surprised by how nice the finished article was. (Don’t you just love their confidence in my ability?!)

My wonderful, expensive fabric behaved beautifully and sewed up a treat. Except, sadly, when I was sewing on the right side of the fabric (eg, to make the neckband or hem, or doing any topstitching). Then, no matter what I adjusted, there were skipped stitches. I tweaked all sorts of things, to no avail. Finally with time running away from me, the light fading, my neck aching (from bending over all that unpicking) and my patience fraying ever so slightly, I decided that I’d simply use a smaller stitch length, sew slowly and steadily and accept whatever I got at the end of that process. It didn’t do away with the skipped stitches, but it did minimise their number. And I accepted that result. (You’d have to look closely to notice the skipped stitches.)

I made version 1, including the long sleeves because, you know, cool afternoons  and evenings up in the HIlls, winter on its way and all of that. And, as I said, my end result was, as intended, a great deal more fitted than the envelope photo would suggest.

I changed the neckline entirely. I have interfacing somewhere, but since tidying my sewing room I’m no longer certain of its whereabouts. Therefore, I decided to do something whose construction was akin to that of a t-shirt collar, but I made it with a slight twist. I let the dress hang for a couple of nights before I finally hemmed it. Dr B measured it for me, and estimated I’d need to remove 5 inches. That sounded like rather a lot! I shortened it by 4 inches and turned up a half-inch hem. That gave me a flattering, just-below-knee hemline. Funnily enough, I don’t recall shortening it last time, and I haven’t marked the pattern to indicate that I did. But I haven’t got any taller in the intervening 33-odd years.

Rather than leave it languishing in the wardrobe simply because the neckline could use adjusting, I’ve worn it on Board meeting days.

Also, partly because I have T. Rex arms, I had to chop off some of the sleeve length. I hadn’t made the long sleeved version before, but I ought to have remembered the 1980’s penchant for Very Long Sleeves and taken heed from the pushed-up sleeves in the photo. No harm done and the dress finished in ample time (honestly, I reckon I was done with the last of the threads by mid-morning on the day of the late-afternoon wedding). We ended up being a party in blue because Dr B and YoungB both elected to wear blue shirts. It wasn’t done intentionally to match my dress, merely serendipity.

Serendipity had us all in blue, just like half the wedding party.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2017 in Sewing

 

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comfort of a sort

You know that feeling when you’ve lurched to the last working day of the year and what you haven’t done is not done but you can’t dredge up sufficient energy to care? That happened to me halfway through December. In my previous job, the obligatory holiday during the Christmas shut-down could vary greatly, so I mostly made mine long to enable me to cope with all the family, cycling and rowing events that clustered round that part of summer. It wasn’t the sort of job where the work you hadn’t  finished would be waiting when you returned. Jobs didn’t hang around or hang over for that long. You might find yourself typing later sittings of the same matter, but it would have moved on.

In my present job, almost everything I hadn’t done was awaiting me when I returned, plus a few extras I hadn’t anticipated. That’s a distinct deterrent to taking long breaks, because it means that the return workload is crushing and you need a good life-jacket. But I had a holiday, anyway, during which I managed to tidy my sewing room somewhat.

2017 will be challenging. The sector is changing and in order to survive and flourish, organisations have to not only change but come up with new ideas for growth. I feel remarkably inadequate in that scenario. I’m still reasonably good at thinking on my feet, and quickly, but I have no business background at all. This is, I suspect, a shorthand way of saying that I need to enrol in some suitable units at a local TAFE, or within an undergraduate degree, if I’m to have any hope of not going under. My problem is that I don’t know what I need because it’s difficult to intuit what shape the future changes will take with regard to my job. I often feel now as if I’m close to drowning because of the workload, so perhaps I need to invest in a better life-jacket because that feeling is unlikely to lessen.

As near to drowning as I might be, something I do know is that I’ll need to knit and sew more, or I’ll be too grumpy for words. I also know that I’m going to have to do a l-o-t of work to get my photo app to talk to my blog. Lots to work on this year, and not a resolution in sight! All the best with all of your plans, resolutions or just general intentions for this year’s crafting. 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2017 in Knitting, Musing, Sewing

 

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an even bigger sideways wallop

Addio, Maurizio; your final ride was on a road something like this.

Addio, Maurizio; your final ride was on a road something like this but on the other side of the world.

On Thursday morning we woke to devastating news from Italy: one of the cousins had been killed in a motorbike accident. Yet again, plans for future meetings and shared learning went out the window. We’ve been a bit of a mess ever since.

Yesterday, however, YoungB and his fellow-student girlfriend, Dr B and I spent a delightful day: exhibition, lunch at one of YoungB’s favourite and highly-recommended burger joints, coffee at a chain we probably have – or should have – shares in by now, then a short reception prior to the local premiere of an Italian-Australian film (happily, set in Dr B’s part of northern Italy), showing at a nearby cinema and part of the Lavazza Italian Film Festival 2016. After the film, a Q and A session with the director and her producer husband (information here), and a chat with YoungB’s Italian professor who was also in the audience, it was dinner time. We trundled across the road for that, then hiked back to the car. We had coffee and cakes at a same but different locale (Glynde) before finally coming home some eight hours after setting out.

We were all physically tired but somewhat restored in spirit, even if poor YoungB’s feet were hurting after the amount of standing and walking he’d done in totally inappropriate shoes. End-of-season sales saw that situation remedied this morning, so he went off to watch soccer while Dr B and I pottered about at home: he in the garden, I in the laundry. Oh, the thrill of it all 🙂

But the burning question I’m asking myself is, can I knock up a dress before Thursday’s AGM? I’m tired of winter, tired of being cold, fed up with wearing trousers and not that fond of the idea of a skirt. A dress? There’s potential in the idea. You know me, it’s unlikely to happen. But it makes me feel a little less inadequate to have it as a sort of non-plan when my knitting doesn’t make sense to me because every time I pick it up to do any, there are interruptions. Never mind. We’re alive and well and aren’t we lucky to have that?

 
 

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it wasn’t pretty but I did it

That would be the Bloody Long Walk. I wasn’t well and probably should have called it quits before I even started. But, as I often say, that’s why we have pharmaceuticals. Right? That’s YoungB holding me up at the finish line, though you’d swear he was simply giving me a congratulatory hug. Five minutes later I missed the edge of a chair and fell over. I could only laugh hysterically. I couldn’t get up, though I eventually managed it with YoungB’s assistance.That was about when Dr B decided we needed to go home. There was no argument at all from me, so that’s what we did. I went straight to bed the minute we got in the door 🙂

That stripey, cooling neck bandanna that’s half-on and half-off? I didn’t need it. But I made it specially the day before, just in case. I even half-charged it at one of the checkpoints, when it looked as if there might be some warmth in the sunshine. There wasn’t, or not much.

If you’ve recently managed a 35-Km walk or extreme activity of any sort – knitting, sewing, something physically challenging – well done. I’m going back to bed 🙂

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2016 in Health, Sewing

 

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a big, post-election grumble about a lot of what I see

No grumbles with this pattern, which is progressing nicely

No grumbles with this pattern, which is progressing nicely

I sat down to write one post and seem to have written two! Please ignore whichever half bores you 😉

The thing about trawling the web and looking at lots of posts on sewing is that so much of what I see strikes me a bit like Arthur Dent‘s house: it precisely fails to please the eye. I can see that the cut is lovely, or the colour is, or that it’s beautifully made but sometimes? Sometimes the proportion is all wrong or the colour doesn’t suit the person wearing it and the cut isn’t flattering on the figure of the wearer. The bodice of a drop-waisted skirt is too long or perhaps it’s the skirt that’s too short (or possibly long), though the overall length is fine, but together? It just doesn’t work. That is to say, even allowing for the fact that IRL when it’s moving rather than static it might look better, it just doesn’t work to my eye.

There are patterns about which the online sewing community seems to go into raptures and, although I can find individual things to like about each of the iterations I come across, it leaves me cold. Most of the Colette patterns are in that category – and because plainly designed for a body shape that mine has never been and is now unlikely to achieve, I don’t buy Colette patterns – which is a bit sad because I like the idea of supporting Indie designers rather than the Big Companies. The passion for Tilly‘s Coco was a bit similar; it didn’t ring my bells. And that’s OK. We’re not all the same.

With regard to the clothing, I accept that I’m in no position to criticise, because I myself don’t really make much; some might say I don’t make anything at all and that’s perhaps near enough to the truth. But it’s like singing: just as I can still hear whether that’s good or bad and give you very concise and informed reasons why it’s one or the other, though I do so little of it myself nowadays, I can tell you why those patterns don’t work. That doesn’t mean other people will have the same opinion.

Overall, however, it serves to reinforce the notion that anyone who wants to make their own clothing really needs to be able to draft a pattern and/or be able to make drastic alterations to a pre-existing one. That’s quite an ask in an age where these things are not taught at school. I was fortunate enough to learn pattern-drafting at primary school. My suspicion is that the more any person who sews uses a prefabricated pattern from anywhere – Big Company or Indie designer – the more the realisation grows that, no, it’s not going to cut it to keep doing this. You have to draft your own.

While I’m on a roll, something else that gets up my nose big time is the modern penchant for squashing breasts to flatness. I genuinely appreciate the need for comfort and support, I get the bit about not wanting to bounce around too much and I certainly understand the value of a minimising bra; but one that leaves you looking like some weird sort of chook gone wrong? Uuh, yeah, maybe not. It’s not flattering, it makes the clothes hang badly and, in some cases, is decidedly part of why the clothes don’t look particularly flattering. They’re being beaten at their own game by over-eager corsetry. I don’t have a problem with what’s occasionally described as industrial-strength undergarments so long as they don’t make the body shape they’re assisting into something that no longer resembles a normal, female body. (For tonight’s homework, define normal.) Yeah. I’m feeling cranky.

I admit it: that crankiness has been exacerbated by post-election ennui and the still-in-doubt election result.

On Saturday, I spent hours standing out in the cold, handing out how-to-vote cards. Talk about wondering about a lot of what you see! There were people who turned up beautifully dressed and brightened the day, others who’d obviously come straight from work or sporting events, youngsters being shepherded along by anxious parents afraid of looking right or left lest thoughts be contaminated by a leaflet not to their liking, many grumpy people whose expressions said louder than words that they didn’t appreciate having to vote or what a privilege it is to have that right, those who complained about how far they were forced to travel as if that were something we poor volunteers could magically mend, and many who laughed along with the silly jokes we were making as we handed out leaflets for the umpteenth time.

I occasionally regretted that there is no Socialist Alliance in my electorate, I say with tongue in cheek, because reactions would have been hilarious had I been handing out something with that logo. I certainly don’t look the type to be a rabid Left-winger 🙂 You’re fair game, whatever you’re doing, so you need to be thick-skinned. Luckily, I am. I was reprimanded for my not-at-all-radical views by one older man, who told me I should be ashamed of myself because I was old enough to know what I was doing. It’s not part of the patter, but the queue had stalled at that stage. I drew myself up to my full height – which is not great, but greater than his – and shot back that I certainly am old enough to know what I’m doing, and that’s why I do it. I had a little discussion with another, younger, bloke in the queue about hung parliaments and his view that voting for anything but a major party would result in chaos, despite the fact that many such governments exist worldwide and function well. One chap walked past all the leaflets, muttering as he did so that they’re all bloody criminals (he may have a point; it made me laugh). Another wanted to vote for Pauline Hanson. I reassured him that this isn’t her electorate, nor was there a One Nation candidate. I didn’t suggest he ought to move to Queensland, because I thought it was likely he wouldn’t know where that is.

Silliness aside, I was truly astounded – and not in a good way – by the number of people who seemed to have been caught unawares by the election. We’d just come to the end of one of the longest campaigns in many a year and still they seemed startled by it all. Entirely too many plainly hadn’t given any thought to how they would vote. I don’t expect everyone to do what we do – spreadsheets; I’ve said before that’s how we roll – but I wasn’t surprised that several of my colleagues had worked it all out before election day and taken their print-outs with them. A vote is too valuable to waste.

YoungB was doing his bit at a different polling booth – one with a sausage sizzle, I add with some resignation and a great deal of jealousy; there wasn’t one at mine – and he had some entertaining tales, too. He is a very charming young man and learnt early that if you’re polite to people, generally they will respond in like manner. He reported that he had made eye contact and cheerfully, but very politely, handed out his how-to-vote card. The old trick worked, even though some of them, he thought, would rather have responded with a mouthful of vitriol. Dr B was at a different booth – also sans sausage sizzle – and had a good time, doing two two-hour stints so that he could duck up to see Nonna and give her lunch in the interim. I closed my booth, and YoungB came to help me take down the last of the posters that I simply couldn’t reach. We swapped tales of our day when we arrived home, then he and Dr B went off to the party to watch the tally. I was too tired, too cold and too far behind with domestic chores, so I watched at home while I attended to laundry and the like.

Yesterday the boys went for a motorbike ride, to blow away the cobwebs and reconnect with something other than endless spreadsheets comparing political parties and their policies. We’ve voted, made our choice known, and done it unmolested in a democracy where we can be reasonably assured that our votes weren’t tampered with or ignored. We are in a dreadful, and dreadfully ugly, mess, but we remain extremely fortunate. And the queues about which I heard endless complaints on Saturday? At my booth, they extended to the gate and meant the wait was half an hour to perhaps 40 minutes (at most). It wasn’t days. We were out in the open, but we weren’t there for long.

My personal fitness guru, as YoungB has appointed himself, thought that, while they were out motorcycling, I should do a 10 Km training walk in order to be ready for the Bloody Long Walk at the end of next month. That would take me two hours. But I thought that if I didn’t bring in the laundry, we’d have no clothes for the rest of the week. More pressingly, I was convinced that if I didn’t knit some more of his beanie he wouldn’t have it for next weekend. He’ll certainly need it, because he and I will be visiting friends in a cold part of the world. There, I’ll have good reason to be grumpy; except that the warmth of the friendships will ward off the worst of the chills.

So, yeah. I’ve said my piece about practically everything, I think! Back to the knitting now. I’m pleased to report that it is going well, and I’ve taken the plunge and done some of these cables without using a cable needle. The reason why is probably another grumble, but I think I’ve been cranky enough. Pax 🙂

 
 

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