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did I make it or not?

Firstly, happy new year. Personally, I hope 2014 is a better year than 2013 turned out to be but whatever it holds, I’ve no doubt at all that there’ll be more plans made and never fulfilled. I mean, for example, I’m already a year down with my plan to knit YoungB’s cabled jumper and I haven’t yet begun it! (That leaves me two years in hand, I tell myself. Bags of time, absolutely bags.)

Wrapping up with 2013 Sewlutions: if I put the Yalta top as a success and something I could or even would wear to work – and the answer to both of those is yes, since I would never be without at least a short-sleeve jacket in any paid employment, which would certainly hide a multitude of sins – then I came in as a completion. Since my original brief was something like that, perhaps I got there in time. (Excuse the poor picture, I was being lazy about the tripod; and I deliberately didn’t include my face since it’s presently suffering an horrific outbreak of cold sores.)

Wearable and respectable and a vast improvement on my old, faded tops. But is it acceptable to the Mistress?

Wearable and respectable and a vast improvement on my old, faded tops. But is it acceptable to the Mistress?

If, however, we take the view that my main purpose was to use that lovely piece of rayon to make a nice top? No, I failed quite dismally. I could have sat up late on New year’s Eve and done a terribly botched job simply to make the deadline (although, being among the earliest to greet the New Year, I’d have had hours in hand, that’s not actually an option when you know your day is already spoken for). But that’s part of the deal, too: I wanted to do a good job. For once I wanted to have all the seams finished nicely and the neckline tidy and the hems straight. In that case, the Yalta top doesn’t fit the bill either, since I made it in such a rush that there are bodgy bits of finishing. It’s perfectly wearable, just not brilliant.

Also – because on New Year’s Eve I was tired to the point where I couldn’t keep my eyes open even to read a book (rare, but it happens) I went to bed and was so soundly asleep that I didn’t hear Dr B and Eldest Aunt come home from the beachside fireworks display – I didn’t blog about my failure or read Karen’s post on the appointed day. I’ve since headed over to do that, sure she’d have pulled another rabbit out of the hat; and, you know, of course she had! But I had a feeling there’d be others who might also be in that grey area of not knowing quite whether to claim a success or a miserable failure and probably quite a few who didn’t manage to meet either the Sewlution or the deadline. That’s proved to be the case.

In a bigger picture way, I’m quite sure that my muddled output was a product of my muddled year. I did manage to knit a reasonable amount – 14 completed items, if my record on Ravelry is accurate, as well as two cardigans that are frogged or still WIPs, a care shawl that’s also still on the needles and the Noro Silk Garden scarf that’s growing slowly – but my sewing was less productive. I mended a lot of things, though I always think of that as rescuing them otherwise I probably wouldn’t do it! But let’s see, what did I make? A bandanna, quite a few lavender bags, several totes of varying descriptions, a little clutch I didn’t blog about but use all the time and three aprons as well as the galactic Yalta top. Not a large output, I think you’d have to agree. Perhaps this year I’ll manage to get that sewing room back to a better state of usefulness and improve my output.

So I remain uncertain as to the answer to my question but perhaps, if the Mistress is in a good mood, She might reckon I managed to meet the goal of making a top suitable for work. Otherwise I’m in for a terrible time. I hope you’re not also quaking in your boots!

 

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2014 in Knitting, Reading, Sewing

 

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safely out the other side

There was far too much far-too-late-night sewing, in part because I realised at a very late hour that I’d quite overlooked one young couple! I was able to pull together a little parcel of mixed homewares for them but felt there needed to be something more personal; so I made another Simple Linen Apron. No photos exist. You’ll have to take my word for it.

Long scarves are notoriously difficult to photograph, particularly so late at night. I think you can see the stripes quite well and the colour is probably fairly accurate.

Long scarves are notoriously difficult to photograph, particularly so late at night. I think you can see the stripes quite well and the colour is probably fairly accurate.

As to the rest? The ends were sewn in on the Tarrantino scarf and I wasn’t even doing it while we were travelling. That’s pat-on-the-back territory, that is. The other two aprons were finished and the one with the accompanying lavender bag had it slipped into a pocket. That was mostly before midnight, I think. Sleep? Well, there wasn’t quite enough of that but I wasn’t driving to any of our engagements, so I could have zizzed in the back seat and I doubt if either of the Bs would have noticed. As it was, I started knitting a pair of fingerless mitts. Hours of travelling time is such a productive thing!

Wider stripes and dark ties for this second Simple Linen Apron

Wider stripes and dark ties for this second Simple Linen Apron. The first one had white ties, like the lavender bag in this picture.

I hope you managed to get all your crafting and handiwork finished and celebrate in fine style, as indeed we did on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, both times with family and friends. Youngest Aunt had requested some slightly cooler weather, please, for the Boxing Day feast and the weather gods had been most obliging about that. We had a lovely time out under her pergola, eating baked snapper with the radio tuned to the Boxing Day Test in the background. I hope you had a lovely time, too.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2013 in Knitting, Sewing

 

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just nuts

If I may change sporting analogies for a moment, I’m almost through the red buoys, only about a bow ball away from the finish line with the Tarrantino scarf – that is, it’s knitted and I have only the ends to sew in. It will not be getting blocked. Amen.

The second Simple Linen Apron is almost finished but I foresee a small-hours effort trying to achieve that goal since Dr B’s very late plan change for today’s timetable has thrown everything into chaos of an extremely high order. I wonder, after all these years, why I should be surprised by that; but, you know, he still has the ability to knock my feet out from under me!

You’ll see why it’s back to work I go. Let me say only that, along with nuts, there had better be some chocolates and plenty of cherries. Then I might think it’s Christmas. The Advent calendar today reached the closing punctuation point of “Merry Christmas To You” and so, this must be the time to wish all of you just that: a very merry Christmas, however or whatever you celebrate.

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in Knitting, Musing, Sewing

 

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then some days I surprise myself

Those of you who do a lot of sewing, especially those who make clothes, will no doubt be familiar with the experience of looking at a finished article and finding it good: at least nicely made, having a quality finish and perhaps fabric, and something that you’d pay a lot for – if indeed, you could replicate it – if you had to buy it in a shop. Me? Well, you saw my recent wearable toile. Really, most of my sewing is mending or small household things. For all my grand plans, I don’t actually get much clothing sewn.

And you can't even tell that I had to redo a bit of topstitching where I ran off the edge!

And you can’t even tell that I had to redo a bit of topstitching where I ran off the edge!

I’m not sure if an apron is necessarily clothing, either. Some might argue that it’s an accessory since its main purpose is to protect clothing. Whichever school of thought you support, I made a really nice, stripey one the other day. It’s a Christmas present, of course, and its manufacture had to be slotted in around the usual chores of domestic life because I can’t sew at night (that’s a matter of simple household logistics, not so much that I wouldn’t be happy to sew all night).

Next morning, when I went back to the sewing room to check that it was properly finished – no threads hanging off or things of that unruly nature – I found myself pleasantly astonished by what a fine-looking apron I had in my hands. Wow, the pocket lines up. All the stripes align, except where I had fun playing with a contrasting alignment for the pocket, as you can see in the photo. How regular are those half-inch hems? And, gee, isn’t that a tidy bit of topstitching?! Quite a lot of tidy topstitching, in fact, all around the apron. Impressive.

All praise to my walking foot for managing to skate over so many layers of mattress ticking, which was the fabric I used to make the apron. Thanks, too, to the Purl Bee‘s wonderful Simple Linen Apron pattern and instructions. I have a favourite, tried and very true apron pattern that I’ve used to death for many, many years but decided that it was time to do something different. This is simple but satisfyingly elegant and I’m sure the intended recipient will love it. Because it’s cotton, it might have a slightly lower protective factor than a plastic or coated fabric, but it will be cooler; and when you’re slaving away over a hot stove on a 40-degree day, that’s important.

And you know that old saying about pride going before a fall? Let this be a lesson to you to look at the pictures, chickadees. I had a moment of doubt when cutting out the neck straps, because there didn’t seem to be a sufficient measurement differential but pushed ahead and followed the instructions. I even went ahead and constructed and attached according to the instructions. And, yeah, the instructions are wrong! If you go back and look at the pictures, as I did only after the event, you’ll see that one neck tie is a lot shorter than the other, not just a few inches. Oh, well, a small bit of retro-engineering was able to fix that, but I was cross with myself more than cranky with the pattern because my usual way of dealing with D-rings ought to have given me the tip.

Fabric: perhaps half a metre of cotton mattress ticking (nominally 150 cm wide, I think) bought at Spotlight in the city at least a year ago, possibly two. I prewashed, knowing it was very likely to shrink; and it did.

Thread: Coats Drima Polyester in an ecru colourway, which I’ve had for years and is no longer available (no, not white. I like that small contrast and, to be truthful, I wouldn’t have been able to see what I was doing if I’d used a white thread that completely disappeared into the fabric.).

Size: Adult; but one size given that consideration.

Changes to pattern: I stitched the hem on the pocket piece before attaching it to the apron.  That helped avoid the fluff-collecting extra flap of fabric in the pocket and made for a slightly tidier finish (just my opinion; but since ticking is very prone to fraying, I thought too that the zigzagged edges alone might not do the job). And, you know, there was the thing with the neck tie.

All in all, I’m very happy with this. I should have spotted the problem with the neck tie earlier, but it was easily fixed. So, okay, here we are a few days away from Christmas and I’ve finished one gift. Right! Will I have to resort to gift vouchers from Bunnings for the boys (they’re all tinkerers of one sort or another) and Dymocks for the girls (who are mostly rapacious readers), do you think? What’s your emergency plan?

Good luck with it all, anyway.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2013 in Sewing

 

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FO: Summer Shimmer Scarf

It doesn't shimmer quite as much as I'd hoped, but it's drapey and beautiful

It doesn’t shimmer quite as much as I’d hoped, but it’s drapey and beautiful – and it only took a few weeks to knit

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2013 in Knitting

 

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old ladies

I’ve turned into one of those. Not the nice sort but the “My old lady lets me go and ride my motorbike while she stays home and works” type. I’m rebelling by refusing to do housework in their absence. Rather, I’ve been knitting. Dr B and I made a trip to buy some craft supplies – for something HE needed – before they sailed out this morning but any plans I might have had for the day were so thoroughly derailed that, well, I’ve knitted another inch or so of my Easy Lace Cowl and fixed up a mistake I’d had to tink in the Summer Shimmer Scarf by way of having my fun while they have theirs. There has to be justice in life, some sort of balance in the Force and all that.

They were, in fact, talking about bikes – pedal and motor – the other night, discussing various motor capacities and other intricate features (I assume they’re intricate though I am, of course, wilfully ignorant on such points). Dr B asked what would I be talking about had I had a gaggle of my friends over? Premium knitting needles, I said. Then I proceeded to tell them all about Addi needles with click-on ends and interchangeable middles and bamboo and rosewood and all the various other interesting needles and crochet hooks I read about. I don’t actually use any of those and am reasonably satisfied with the results I obtain on those I’ve been using for years. Their eyes were spinning nicely.

This is my idea of the way things should be, but I reckon I’d have a higher body count! (Image remains copyright of the original artist.)

Tomorrow we’re visiting a friend whose industrial sewing machine will make light work of the chore I’d have done for Dr B today had my machine had the grunt. Four layers of belting? Not really, even with a walking foot and a new needle. The friend is a bloke. There’s SOME balance in the Force, after all.

 

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laundering

You remember that blue top I made for Nonno? I asked Dr B today if its recipient regarded it as OK and did he want another? Dr B’s response was that he’d put the top straight in the laundry basket when he delivered it so he didn’t really know whether the fit was good or not, but he thought it should have been. I was a little puzzled by that, I admit, because the fabric had been washed and, you know, I hadn’t been trampling it on the ground or anything. I said as much. Dr B admitted that he’d had an accident with a box of liqueur-soaked cakes and the top was, uh, one of the nicest smelling he’d ever encountered! But, alas, not able to be worn without laundering. Oh. And, yes, please, Nonno would like another. Fine. That can be done. Now that I have the pattern sorted out, you’d think it shouldn’t really take me all that long.

Knitting has been the thing this weekend. I’ve only a few more rows do to and the White Caps Cowl will be finished. I’ve packaged up the crocheted orange rose and the knitted red scarf to take to the yarn bombing coordinator – they’re not large contributions, but every little helps and I would struggle to knit more articles between now and 7 December, which is the deadline; I’m not a fast knitter – then I need to turn my attention to aprons and lavender bags and other Christmas sewing.

I hope you’re making great progress with all your Christmas projects. I usually end up sewing till midnight Christmas Eve – which is really Christmas Day, I know – because I’m not well organised. But I get there. Good luck with your efforts!

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2012 in Crochet, Knitting, Sewing

 

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a life on the ocean wave

Actually, just the White Caps Cowl. I’ve been knitting a row here and there and now and then with the occasional longer burst of activity. Mostly, it’s restricted to what I can do on the bus, which is rarely more than two rows (and that’s with the bamboo yarn, which provides faster results because it’s smoother, easier knitting), with maybe some night-time bowling over of a few more rows and once in a while some weekend work. On the whole, this has been fitted in around many other things, so although it’s taking longer than I’d hoped, and missed the birthday deadline entirely, it will certainly be ready as a Christmas gift.

Nearing completion

Normally at this hour on a Saturday, I’d be at a rowing regatta. However, although YoungB’s crew is rowing today, he is away this weekend and I no longer feel greatly obliged to be there on my own. When he was rowing, I would have gone to help set up marquees and chivvy the kids along at appropriate moments but the nature of school rowing is that the people change. So this morning, I slept late – for a Saturday – and don’t feel a bit guilty about having done so. DrB was up and about early for cycling purposes. He’s not home yet.

What do you reckon? Should I just knit a few more rows while I have some uninterrupted time?

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2012 in Knitting, Rowing

 

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beginning yarn bombing

Last night I sat down and crocheted an utterly over-the-top enormous, orange rose. No, I haven’t taken a photo yet though I promise I will. Right now, I know I’ve an early night because tomorrow will be an early morning, fetching my rower from his revels so he can ensure that his crew is ready for racing. I’m presently too tired to think. Did any of that make sense?!

If it didn’t, which is my fear, you’ll understand why I didn’t pull out my White Caps Cowl to do any knitting tonight on the bus. I was sure I’d make a mistake or miscount something and have to tink rather too far for comfort. If, indeed, I retained the ability to tink – or think – at all.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2012 in Crochet, Knitting, Rowing

 

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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?

 

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

 

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