Tag Archives: Portia’s self-drafted top

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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FO and a sort of plan for next year

I hope you’ve all enjoyed your Christmas celebrations, whatever form they took.

An FO? Yes, just one: the White Caps Cowl, which I was knitting till almost 9 o’clock on Boxing Day morning (luckily for me, it wasn’t needed until lunchtime; but, yes, it was somewhat necessarily, therefore, gifted unblocked). Sewing? A few lavender bags. Other knitting? None. Surviving the end-of-year busy-ness was sufficient achievement. And, as I’ve yet to send cards, I’m not too sure if we have survived. I’m going to call them New Year cards, though. But, you know, we made it through a festival of feasts and visits by friends and family, a birthday, a wedding anniversary, exam results, exploding champagne, a concert or two and lots of everyday stuff that included inordinate amounts of time dedicated to fitness pursuits (no, not me; that was everyone else while I was playing laundry lady).

What can I say about the White Caps Cowl? I adapted it slightly in terms of number of repeats. I think it’s probably a make that would knit to a nicer finish in its recommended yarn but I’m quite taken by the weight of the Patons Sorrento, the hint of glamour it provides with the slightly shimmering aspect of its mixed fibre and the smooth contrast of the Cleckheaton Bamboo. As far as knitting went, the bamboo was much easier on the hands and I was able to make reasonable progress. The variable thickness of the Sorrento slowed me down quite a lot. It hasn’t put me off by any means, as I’ve stocked up my cupboard with enough yarn to make a couple more of the White Caps Cowls throughout the year (it really is good on-the-bus knitting and I love the look of it). I might not use a faux seam with another make; it doesn’t really ring my bells. The photo was taken hurriedly with my phone, prior to wrapping; excuse background (bedcover) and less than ideal lighting.

Flat cowl

Not exciting but looks better in action

One of our visiting friends has put in a couple of knitting requests and I’ll be happy to oblige her with a Villawool Inca L574 hat in a colour scheme to her liking (that will be a reasonably fast knit, even at my pace). I’ve yet to decide on the yarn for that (the Villawool Inca being no longer available) but am fairly sure I could manage it from stash, which you’d have to consider a win. Hardly surprisingly, the really thick winter yarns are somewhat thin on the shelves at this time of year. There will also be a three-colour linen stitch scarf though I have absolutely no intention of making it as long as its predecessor. I understand about long scarves and cold climes, truly I do; but there is a point beyond which the extra length simply gets in the way. I bought yarn for that yesterday at Spotlight. I would like to make one for myself but will wait and see how other things pan out before I make that a firm promise/plan.

I started something akin to a prayer shawl – perhaps a care shawl – for a colleague who has had a rotten year by anyone’s standards. I won’t finish it quickly (the needle size is just on the edge of my comfort zone and I struggle to find a rhythm even with the very easy pattern) but it might be ready for her April birthday. In any case, she’s not expecting it so in some respects I have as much leeway as I need on that one.

The yarn bombing coordinator rang the other day to ask for more contributions: red hearts and lots of roses, not necessarily red, for another yarn bombing project, the previous one in Victoria Square having been hailed as such a success. I’ve already crocheted up a few test roses which will be perfectly acceptable contributions and am looking around for a heart pattern that looks sufficiently heart-like and sufficiently large. I think this one fits the bill. I know where the drop-off point is and I have my dark glasses at the ready so I can ensure my hearts and flowers are there before the due date. You might not be surprised to hear that Dr B and YoungB have somewhat taken this yarn bombing idea and run with it, referring to secret language, pack leaders and cell members as if it were an underground movement. I humour them. At least they’re not objecting!

In sewing news, I’ve repaired YoungB’s Draggins (kevlar-reinforced motorcycling jeans) again, having previously taken up the hem by the amount he requested. Anyone who knows about jeans will understand that much use had seen them sag to a point where the hems were in shreds. This time I cut off the original and new hems and turned them up twice. They might look a shade short were he to wear them with loafers but as that’s unlikely – his motorcycling gear has been carefully chosen to enable him to wear it all day, boots included (though I’d accept that leathers in winter are for on the bike and not much else) – then we reckon that this time they won’t catch on his boots nor drag on the ground. That’s not the sort of drag the brand intends although I’ll be very happy if it’s the only sort this pair of jeans ever encounters.

I still haven’t managed to make a new top for myself or tinkered with my rescued skirt and stripey trousers to create the jacket I’d half-imagined could be made from them, using Portia’s kimono-tee pattern as inspiration (it’s a winner; I’ve already used it to make five tops of varying degrees of respectability). They will happen at some point, I suppose. However, I have received my Pattern Pyramid winnings from Meg and will undoubtedly have something to show you from that; but not just yet. So if you’ve been eagerly awaiting the announcement, take this as advance warning. I’m still rather run off my feet and although – o frabjous day! – I have managed to clear the sewing table (nearly, anyway), I have a couple of other urgent tasks that simply have to be done before I can allow myself to be frivolous.

All in all, I think 2013 is going to be just like 2012: full of good intentions, lots of things made that I didn’t really intend to make, other people’s things coming ahead of mine on a regular basis and anything made for myself done terribly last-minute and not terribly well! I do hope that you have a better year in terms of your crafty endeavours, whatever form they take. Cheers, everyone, and happy new year.


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what you do when things go wrong

Summer suddenly reverted to winter a week or so ago and I had no decent tops I could wear to a family function. The skirt fabric that wasn’t quite large enough for the pattern I wanted to use started to look like a good option for the unexpected sartorial lacuna, so I nutted out how to make something appropriate using Portia’s simple top in a long-sleeved, layered-looking version, augmenting the patterned fabric with some plain black knit fabric that had been in my stash for a very long time (it featured in one of Boy’s pyjama tops, 10-or-so years ago).

I said life had been a bit nuts and that was all part of the drama. I was trying to talk to people while trying to sew (not a good thing to do). I was hurrying (also not a good thing to do). I was away from the house for hours at a stretch at times I’d planned to be at home sewing (at least I was able to take my knitting with me; the White Caps Cowl is coming along very nicely, thank you). Everything that could have gone wrong probably did. I broke my new twin needle, luckily after doing a very good job of topstitching around the neck (I was extremely pleased with how well that turned out but didn’t seem able to take a good photo of it).

Of course I only had one twin needle suitable for stretch fabrics, so that little mishap necessitated reverting to first principles for all the rest of the topstitching – that is, sew one line, align presser foot with previous stitching and off you go on the second line of topstitching – but hardly surprisingly that took at least twice as long as one effort with the twin needle. I couldn’t get the sleeves to work, so ended up simply hemming them and calling them done. They looked like this:

Nothing wrong with straight edges but they do so get in the way (in my case, in the curry)

Eventually I had an opportunity to sit and sew without interruption and tried to improve the sleeves. After many more nightmares, I ended up with a simple elastic cuff (I was going out to an evening event and needed to have a closed cuff to prevent chill air going up my sleeves), which looked a bit like this:

Functional but deserving of the, “Oh, dear,” reaction one family member bestowed on them

Today, after having battled quite a bit more, I ended up with something that is far from perfect. But it looks acceptable and probably even presentable and there comes a point where you have to say, “Enough,” and mean it. The top now looks something like this:

It’s warn and at least as well made as anything I could have bought.

The fabric on the left is a second bandanna I’m making for Dr B. His needing a new one quite desperately also played a part in delaying my finishing the sleeves for my top; but, as I say, it had elastic to keep the chill out (and worn under a jacket, who was any the wiser?) so the bandanna was a clear priority. It looks very nice – sorry, no photo; it’s in use! – and the size has been voted as precisely what was needed. As I say, I’m pinning another and will get onto the orange number within a week or so, I hope. This fabric was decreed to be something all right to use for a test but probably not “for real”: it’s a mustardy yellow with leopard spots and roses on it. Doesn’t it sound ghastly? It’s actually not and, you know, once it’s under the cycle helmet and tied so that there’s a tail hanging down to cover Dr B’s neck, you can hardly see the design on the fabric anyway.

I’ve had to give up on the Apronalong, though. I couldn’t quite fit that with all the other things going on. I’ll make an apron, probably even two, but much closer to Christmas. They, at least, shouldn’t give me any grief in terms of sleeves, should they?



Posted by on October 28, 2012 in Cycling, Knitting, Sewing


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of dodgy tops and polka dots

You might recall my saying I’d be happy to wear the dodgy top out shopping and around the home? It turns out I have no shame. I’ve worn it to a family dinner and I find myself wearing it to work quite often. It’s comfy, it’s tidy, it’s a good weight for the sort of weather we’ve been having and nobody – nobody! – is going to be examining it so closely that they notice how poorly made it is. I can tell you that it’s in no danger of coming adrift at the seams after half a dozen washes, so it must be well enough made for that. I’ve owned RTW clothes for which I couldn’t have made such a claim. The polka dot top is doing good service for work as well. I’m very happy with them both.

I have not, however, made the next top I’d planned (also using a dotty fabric though one on a more generous scale) but I’ll try to get it started tonight. I have been making streamers – some people call them pompoms, though that mystifies me utterly; when I think of pompom I think of something on top of a cap – and my sewing table is still inches deep under crepe paper. I’ve almost finished the ribbing on Eldest Nephew’s beanie, though, so I’ve been quietly making progress on several different WIPs.

A day at home and away from the madhouse that’s work would help my sanity but that’s not an option. In the meanwhile, I’ve a few household chores to attend to. Dang. No justice in life, is there?

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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in Knitting, Sewing



artfully dodging

Today we had a family luncheon to celebrate Nonna’s birthday (she’s 86) and Boy’s (he’s 17). Their birthday is actually on Tuesday, but we can’t do long family lunches on a weekday. Can we?

So it was your typical family get-together: everybody cranky and the kids behaving badly and the siblings who don’t have a good word to say to each other at the best of times being practically murderous and then the mobile phone that was lost practically causing a divorce and Nonno smiling grimly from his hospital bed because he thought Nonna’s birthday flowers were for him and funereal – yeah, one of those. The pizza, however, was delicious.

And I wore my dodgy top. You know, the one with all the problems. Nobody commented, nobody noticed. I think we were all too busy dodging the missiles and ducking for cover!

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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Musing, Sewing



a couple more problems

I thought I’d been utterly honest about my dodgy top, but I’ve remembered some more things that aren’t quite right about it. The coloured bottom panels don’t align properly at the side seams. And the bottom hem is ever so slightly twisted because I did it in a hurry and without even pin-basting it. Lazy.

But, you know – sticks head out window to check – the earth not only didn’t come to a grinding halt, it didn’t even wobble on its axis. Unless you think today’s thunder, lightning and torrential downpour could be in any way related?

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Posted by on March 14, 2012 in Musing, Sewing



topping it all

Did I mention I’d made another top using Portia’s simple self-drafted pattern? I have. This time it’s from a remnant of fabric I bought when I was pregnant with Boy. Given its relative neutrality, I’d thought at the time that I could probably use it to make a little garment for either a boy or a girl. That turned out not to be the case, so it has sat in my stash doing not much but call to me occasionally. Its turn finally came. There wasn’t quite enough to make a top for me, but by judiciously adding some contrasts in another fabric, I was able to make something useful and wearable. I call that a win.

The fabric has small, dark-blue hearts on a white background. I teamed it with leftovers of the dark blue with white spots that I used to make a top for work. And yes, I have worn that to work, three or four times. That fabric is good quality knit, just heavy enough to provide some extra warmth if you need it but not so heavy that it can’t be worn on a warm day. In other words, it’s actually a good choice for work because the office is generally cold but if I then go out at lunchtime into the warmth and sunshine, I don’t roast. (Okay, I admit that it takes a fair bit to make me roast anyway, but I think you understand what I mean.)

So getting back to the most recent Portia top, I admit to having had a bit of a bad run with it. First, the fabrics are different weights. The white one is lighter than the blue one. That isn’t a major problem, but I think similar weight fabrics would marry up better and make handling easier. Second, I miscalculated how wide a strip I’d need in order to make a Chanel trim for the neck, so I had some headaches getting it to sit flat. To be utterly truthful, it doesn’t quite sit flat, but the bump is at the back so it’s not the end of the world by any means.

Third, although I cut the pieces evenly, I must have sewn one sleeve with slightly narrower seams, because the sleeve bands I cut to the same size didn’t fit both sleeves properly. I ended up doing an on-the-fly bias-binding join to fix the second one. It’s under the arm. Who will see it? I can barely see it and I know it’s there! Fourth, I nicked the piece of contrast fabric for the bottom of the back piece and, because it was late at night and I was tired, didn’t notice till I’d just about sewn the piece to its lighter partner. I zig-zagged a mend and carried on. Luckily, it’s in the seam allowance. It’s also not the end of the world.

Fifth, and this is a frequent problem for me as you’ll understand in a moment, my navy thread kept breaking. It’s the end of a large spool of cheap thread and that’s all there is to it. It’s cheap. Having said that, the black, cream, white and two shades of brown I bought at the same time are fine. For some reason I can’t fathom, the navy is a constant drama. It looks okay on the spool, but the minute I start using it, all the flaws seem to appear. I needed to use it to do the neckline and the hem but it takes me twice as long with the constant stopping and rethreading, then having to do something about all those extra ends. All in all, because I was doing other things as well, it took me the best part of a week to make that little top and it’s really not complicated enough to require that amount of time.

Overall, however, and despite all the things I know to be considerably less than perfect about it, I’m happy with it. I’ve worn it at home, and that was probably its original destination, but it could easily be worn to the shops or perhaps even to work under a cardigan or jacket. White isn’t a good colour on me but the blue provides contrast. I’d have to call it a win: something decent for around-the-house wear, perfectly fine for going to the shops and possibly all right for work, as well as a reduction in stash.

And the couple of Moebius cowls I crocheted look pretty good too, plus the growing pile of lavender bags I’m knocking up to send off to worthy homes with Nonno and Nonna, whose present situations both require a little bit of extra comfort and sweetening.

I’m off to line up another Portia top so I have something appropriate to wear to the schools’ Head of the River regatta in a couple of weeks. This time I’ll do all the binding with the same fabric, I won’t use the cheap, navy thread and I’ll be very careful to ensure all my pieces and seams really are the same size. That should make for a quick and easy sewing project, don’t you think?

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Posted by on March 11, 2012 in Crochet, Rowing, Sewing


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a busy, productive week

I achieve in fits and starts.

On the sewing front, during the last week I completed Boy’s sweatshirt (which he’s worn almost non-stop since, though it’s not quite the design he’d been after). He was impressed by my cleverness and how good the result was. We’re agreed on what sorts of changes will be required for the next one.

I made a spotty top for myself, using Miss P’s draft-your-own-top pattern. It turned out so well that I made another one straightaway.I finished a skirt I’d had lurking in my stash for five years or so. The second top matched the skirt (same fabric). I wore that outfit to a wedding yesterday. My menfolk liked it. The skirt wasn’t brilliant (I had trouble with the waistband elastic), but it was all right, the fabric was pretty and all in all, it was probably as well made as some of the other outfits. Desperation and penury are sometimes powerful motivators.

On the knitting front, not so much progress. I tidied up the ends on Nonna’s shawl and called it done. It will be a gift for her birthday in a few weeks. Dr B asked if I would make some lavender bags for her. I’d have made at least one to accompany the shawl but will now make a few more. It’s no trouble.

On the crochet front I finished another Moebius cowl, this one for Eldest Niece, using the same soft, pretty yarn that I used for Nonna’s shawl. The yarn knits to a prettier finish than crochet provides, but I think the colours will appeal to Eldest Niece. She has a birthday looming, too, and there’s a pair of mittens I need to finish for her. The cowl I made the week before was smaller and too pink but it will make a gift for someone else’s birthday, have no fear; not much sits idle for very long in my completed objects boxes.

On the to-do list: fingerless mitts for a colleague, another sweatshirt for Boy, another top and skirt for myself to wear to Head of the River in a few weeks (the skirt is so I can be in the water taking photos; I don’t do shorts anywhere but in the privacy of my own home) and some other more mundane things such as hemming a pair of trousers for Nonna and making some new streamers for Head of the River (I’ve started those).

But meanwhile, the housework is piling up around me!


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