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shall we cross our fingers and hope it’s third time lucky?

Taking it at a run makes it easier but sometimes you have to plod along until you get to the other side

Taking it at a run makes it easier but sometimes you have to plod along until you get to the other side

Two previous posts vanished. One might have been my fault, the other was not 😦 and I’m uncertain if this will make it beyond my desktop. Fnigres corsesd.

So it’s oh well, here we are again and, you know, it’s still winter, I’m tired of the cold (how about just tired?), the Bloody Long Walk is frighteningly close and I’m still somewhat under the weather with a tail-end-of-winter bug that has made, and continues to make, training a fairly unappealing if not occasionally impossible task though everyone else is going great guns with their training, work is so busy I don’t know what to tackle next from the pile, I finished Nonna’s cowl (using remnants of the Moda Vera Ambruni), and YoungB is home and it cheers me to see him still wearing the grey sweatshirt I made for him and even – take note! – to see Dr B wearing a balaclava I made for YoungB. It’s so cold we don’t care who wears what, really, it’s whatever it takes to keep the heat in (Dr B is not entirely bald. But there’s not a lot on top).

More worryingly, I haven’t started the bunting for Eldest Niece’s wedding, though she assures me she has all the fabric. The trouble is, the wedding is in October and, you know, I rarely have the luxury of full days available to me for sewing (especially with training to catch up on and maybe one weekend day with shared availability because of domestic interruptions). Never mind, we’ll get there. We will, one foot after the other. It’s really no good stressing about it because nothing I can say or do will change the situation.

I’d like to make all our Bloody Long Walkers a cooling neck collar – there are 11 in one team and six of us loosely associated but not precisely a team – so that’s another sewing task I need to address more urgently than the wedding decorations. If push comes to shove, I’ll do the six for my immediate crew and let the other team manage without but it would be good to have something for everyone. I think it’s unlikely to be hot in September, on present indications, but it’s foolish to be unprepared. Neck coolers are at least simple and, in this case, I think Great Aunt’s nurse’s uniform fabric might be just the shot: quality cotton and plentiful, no matter how many collars I make.

Wherever you are, whatever you’re up to and whatever weather surrounds you, I hope you’re finding a comfy spot to pursue all your favourite activities. I’m off to do some sewing.

 

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is this really spring?

Springy enough but winterly warm

Springy enough but winterly warm

If it is – and if the swooping magpies didn’t suggest so, then the amount of sneezing and general misery associated with hay fever certainly would – then I think my knitting is likely to be put into some form of storage, the sewing machine come out of semi-hibernation and the seasonal swap take place. I don’t really sew much but I think I do more of it in the warmer months. That’s plain silly, really, when YoungB is always on the lookout for warm, knit-fabric sweaters and the frankensweater is yet to be made. On the other hand, it’s generally far too cold in the sewing room for me to use it during winter. It’s clear, though, because I checked on my Ravelry page, that I have been reasonably productive this year with knitting projects, many of which haven’t been hanging around forever but were actually started this year. Of course, some have been around for a good bit longer. By about now, though, I’ve run out of steam and I’m sneezing too much to be bothered with knitting.

Sewing seems to be the answer. I went so far as to purchase a couple of sewing patterns this year, with stash fabric in mind, but whether I’ll ever actually get around to making them up is quite another thing altogether. The PDF one that I have to stick together, then trace my size onto lightweight interfacing, then actually cut out on fabric, is just sitting there patiently awaiting sufficient clear floor space – and enthusiasm – for all of that to happen. The one that has to be ironed, spread out and then traced and cut out? Yeah, see previous comment about floor space or implied lack thereof. I have made up some shopping totes and lavender bags and no doubt I’ll make a few more of those sorts of things with Christmas in mind. But, you know, I’m tired (hence the lack of enthusiasm). It’s been an odd sort of year and it’s quite scary to think it’s nearly over.

YoungB is nearing the end of his first year at university. I don’t understand that at all. It’s only yesterday, surely, that he was starting primary school. Although, come to think of it, I do have some photos of his last primary school sports day and I can tell you he’s grown some since then. Actually, I have photos of his last assembly at high school. They were taken about a year ago. Oh. My. Giddy. Aunt.

We are presently in the throes of organising YoungB’s application for a year of exchange study in Italy. In the interests of assessing his language skills so we can get an idea of his proficiency levels (and what summer courses he might need to do to boost them if they’re not as they should be), I’ve been looking up a few applications and trawling the web for sites that might be of assistance. I tried out a few of them. I have a great verb trainer on my smartphone. It turns out I’m very good at knowing what the verbs mean, even some of the less common ones.

I’m not so good, and this doesn’t surprise me at all, at conjugating anything much beyond fairly oft-used verbs in ordinary tenses but not moods. I think I’ve said before that I get stuck when I’m faced with having to choose between conditionals and subjunctives. It was ever thus, hence my relative silence whilst I was living in Italy. By the time I’d worked out which of them I should be using, the conversation had moved on so far that it didn’t matter any more. YoungB is much more inclined to just jump in and have a go. I’m hoping he’ll have such a fantastic immersion experience that he’ll come back fluent in all conjugations, whatever the moods or tenses and whether it be spring or any other season.

Of course, that’s all very well. But needing a quick, undemanding project (read, something to fill my hands while we’re discussing all the implications of such an exchange at the kitchen table), I had to dash off today to buy some yarn to make a winter scarf for someone in the family. It will be a Christmas present though not required till next year; but if I wait till her birthday, the poor thing will have died of cold in the interim! So, you know, what I was saying about giving up knitting for a bit? Yeah, maybe not just yet.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2013 in Knitting, Musing, 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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slightly off-square bandanna

Cycling bandanna number 2 is made and I can only say that, as with the grey sweatshirt and its green prototype, the original was better. Number 2 is slightly off square. Obviously somewhere I measured wrongly or pinned crookedly – the sewing is all right given one or both of those initial mistakes – but across the diagonal I don’t think there’s much loss of size and Dr B was happy with it. Therefore I now have the orange fabric on my cutting table.

Summer having returned with some enthusiasm, for a couple of days anyway, I think his third bandanna might just have to wait until I’ve magicked up a new top for me. My need is reaching the point of desperation that his for a bandanna had reached and now he has two and I – well, I just need one (top, let me be clear; I’m not into bandannas at all). Should I dig out the pattern now or let the fabric sit there for a bit longer?

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2012 in Cycling, Sewing

 

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productive but puzzled

I finished Boy’s sweater and he’s wearing it happily enough. I’m disappointed with how it turned out. The green prototype had fewer of the problems that could best be described as not quite meeting at the seams properly and things being slightly off-centre. I matched up as carefully as I could and sewed extra slowly and carefully but I have to say, it’s a somewhat lumpy looking garment. Not a win, then, at least from my perspective; but Boy, as I said, is wearing it and will probably take it on the ski trip (he’s happily worn it to the shops). I know it’s warm. But it’s just not quite as nice as I’d hoped it would be. Although I would have preferred a darker grey, it’s the colour he chose and therefore quite acceptable.

Keeping Boy warm while he studies

Then I thought I’d lost the instructions for my skirt pattern! It was there last week, because I checked it for pattern layout. Today? Could not find it. I checked the packet of the sweater pattern, just in case I’d mistakenly packed it away in there. I cleared my work space a bit and had a look around. No, still couldn’t find it. I told myself I wouldn’t have that much trouble making the skirt, even without the layout and sewing instructions, but the mystery of their whereabouts was baffling me. I looked in a few more likely places – you know, flipped through the knitting books on their shelf, fossicked around among the rowing programs and results in their drawer, and pulled down a couple of lever-arch folders that have sewing patterns in them and which I’d used recently – but all to no avail.

Fine, then, I thought I’d just wing it. I was a little concerned, in any case, that the fabric might be more one-way in terms of its printed design than I’d originally reckoned. If so, I’d have to use a different layout anyway and that would mean I didn’t have enough fabric. I wanted a skirt with some shape, not just the straight one I’d made before. Knowing that all I was looking for was one sheet of paper, I had another quick look in the pattern envelope. And, yep, sure enough, there was the instruction sheet where it should have been, just quietly stuck to the cardboard and minding its own business. R-i-g-h-t.

Yesterday I knitted on the way to work and on the way home (there weren’t many folk on the bus on either occasion, so I had a seat to myself and plenty of room to wave my needles around). Last night, I knitted a few rows while trying to watch a movie. It didn’t really engage my attention, so I gave up on it and decided that instead of knitting I’d some sewing instead, getting a start on the finishing touches for the sweater. But the thing is, the beanie is making good progress even if the sweater hasn’t won any prizes and I’ve spent vast amounts of time trying to find a piece of paper that was always precisely where it should have been. Perhaps trying to sew this weekend was doomed from the outset and I should have just stuck to the knitting?

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2012 in Knitting, Sewing

 

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progress in grey

It’s amazing how boring photos of a grey sweater can be, especially when the sweater is in its construction stages. However, just to reassure you that I haven’t let that siren skirt seduce me, here’s a photo of a seam. Yes, just one of the many! Actually, there are only a few and, let’s face it, a sewn sweater doesn’t take all that much work. I’ve bands left and that will be it, but I simply haven’t yet had enough hours to do them (I do need some sleep). I’m confident I’ll have them tomorrow or over the weekend (alas, tonight has other tasks that need doing) and then Boy will be a very happy boy and I? I’ll be able to start on that skirt.

A shoulder seam, showing the cotton tape that will stop it stretching

Meanwhile, I knitted some more of Boy’s beanie whilst I was waiting for an appointment. I know we only ever do things one stitch at a time, even when we’re increasing or decreasing, but sometimes each stitch seems to take forever. Never mind, they all contribute to the total. And isn’t that what really counts?

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Knitting, Sewing

 

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after the sweater

That’s Boy’s sweater, of course. The pattern is laid out, complete with minor adjustments, and the cutting has begun but it’s been a messy, bitsy weekend and, despite having an extra day in which to achieve things, I’ve not done much at all to make me feel productive. I’m still coughing and wheezing but I wouldn’t cite them as particular reasons; and Dr B is now horribly unwell, so I’ve been fussing over him a bit (but only a bit).

Having said that, I haven’t been entirely indolent. Apart from engaging in the usual weekend battle with the laundry, I’m considerably closer to finishing Boy’s beanie, I have a knitted birthday shawl under way and, as I say, I am making progress, albeit slow, with the sweater. I want to get that finished, though, because I want to make a skirt for myself. The skirt wouldn’t take long but Boy has been very patient about waiting for his sweater. So this will wait, it will. Really it will.

I can hardly resist its siren call

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2012 in Knitting, Sewing

 

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cyclic or circular?

I think I mean cyclic, in the sense of things coming around at intervals or repeated patterns. But you could make an argument for circularity and I wouldn’t argue because you might say that the progression of time has brought a progression of interests and that the interests feed the demands, which are then fulfilled by whatever it might be, which will probably feed into the next interest and so it goes on.

Cyclic being the frequency with which the spokes pass a certain point and circular being the shape of the wheel

There was a time when Dr B and I were building our own home. In those days, each new issue of The Owner Builder magazine was greeted with cries of joy and added to the pile of loo reading. Back then it was still a black-and-white publication but, as now, full of valuable tips and stories from fellow owner-builders that made us laugh and groan in about equal parts. We featured in it once (I wrote that article).

These days, Dr B and Boy are cyclists. We went through a phase of Bicycle SA‘s Cycle! magazine being the preferred bog reading (we now read the enewsletter and magazine online and it is difficult, though not impossible, to take a computer to the loo with you) and, yes, we featured in that, too. Dr B and Boy were such regulars in photos and ride reports that I was prompted to pen an article about how tough it is being a scorned non-cyclist in this situation despite your manifold other contributions, without which none of what they do would be possible. A slight exaggeration, perhaps, but no matter. It wasn’t intended seriously.

Nowadays, the cries of joy greet the appearance in our mailbox of Audax Australia‘s Checkpoint magazine. Oh, yes, we’ve all had a part to play in that, been mentioned in dispatches and what have you. Dr B is the main participant, of course, but Boy has done some Audax rides and I’m frequently cited in my support capacity. A few issues ago, so many of the ride reports had been written by Dr B, so many of the photos were his, that it was an embarrassment to be associated with him! I haven’t yet had an article published in Checkpoint but that’s only because I haven’t written it. Yet. The time will come around when I do.

In utterly unrelated – but relevant because it’s about crafting – news, I have several times managed to knit while waiting for people and have now completed 18 rows of the band on Boy’s beanie. That’s nearly halfway, so I think it’s going along quite well. Also, he and I have had another conference about the sweater design, just to be sure we agree on it before I start cutting.

 

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on the way home from the GP

I happened to duck into Spotlight when I was coming home from a visit to my GP. Well, it’s right there and, you know, I wasn’t quite ready to venture back out into the chilly winter air (yes, it’s officially winter here now).

Having been most impressed by Michelle’s post about her easy, stretchy skirt, I decided that I would simply do what she had done (more or less) so I bought some of the same fabric she showed in her post. I was very tempted by the black-and-white roses but ended up with a length of the black-on-grey geometric pattern. We have a school cocktail function heaving to and I’ll need something colour appropriate to wear to that, so I also bought a length of lightweight, stretchy, black-and-white fabric to make another, slightly dressier skirt.

But none of this will happen until Boy’s sweater is done. To be utterly truthful, because I’m unwell at the moment, I haven’t the energy to sew or do any other handiwork much. I took my knitting to the GP’s, thinking I’d have time to polish off a few rows while I was waiting; and I was right, there was plenty of time. But I could not exert myself that much. Sewing is falling into the same category at the moment. This will pass. The need for winter clothing, however, is now urgent.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2012 in Sewing

 

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rowing pyjamas?

No, they’re not and there’s no such thing that I know of but we have just come home from a rowing function and Boy got straight into his pyjamas as soon as we had unloaded a couple of bags. I asked if he’d let me photograph him wearing them so I could be part of Karen’s Pyjama Party Sewalong reveal. He’s an obliging sort of chap, so he put them on and said they felt like 70s flares because they’re wide-legged. They’re actually straight-legged, not a flare in sight, but he’s accustomed to skinnier styles. He was also wearing the trial sweatshirt I made for him and you could just about get away with calling it a match with the PJ bottoms as they’re both green and although not the same green, the tonality is similar. I took a photo, just one.

The camera card is now full – we’re not sure why; I was fairly sure I’d erased images after the last upload but they’re all still there, plus photos from tonight’s rowing presentations – but I managed just one image of Boy almost in the frame. Almost! It doesn’t matter whether he’s in it or not, really, because we can’t presently find a way to upload images directly from the camera. This is a hangover from the computer problems of earlier this year; there are still occasions where things don’t work and can’t be made to without much inconvenience to everyone.

On the whole, we’d prefer to avoid the inconvenience to others element, so I won’t be pressing for too much action on the photo front just yet awhile. It’s a pity I can’t party with everyone else but that’s the way things turn out. Pillow fights? I think I’ll sob into mine. I have a few comments to make about sewing the PJ bottoms, mostly relating to frustrations with elastic, but perhaps I’ll leave those until I’m able to post a photo. The crotch seam turned out very well, I’m pleased to report. I think I should at least mention that. And that I’m presently rereading Legends of Australian Fantasy edited by Jack Dann and Jonathan Strahan.

Still in sewing mode: I couldn’t go to our final rowing presentation dinner without appropriately coloured attire. I didn’t have a dress or skirt that would have been comfy and warm so I grabbed trousers, a slinky little sleeveless t-shirt top and a jacket. They were all right as far as colour was concerned, but they were all the same colour and we do have the choice of black and white and grey, or just black and white if we can’t do much else. I decided that a scarf would be a good way to add a bit of colour. I didn’t have one, so I made one. In my stash I had a large piece of fabric I’d probably intended to use for a top. Some might argue that its background colour is not really white but rather cream. The flowers and stripes are black. In the dim light of the function centre, it was black-and-white enough to be obvious that I was aiming in the right direction.

I folded my fabric so that it was on the diagonal then cut across, eyeballing everything, so that I ended up with a truncated triangle. Yeah, really scientific and accurate. Not. (And probably quite wasteful of fabric, though I’ll make lavender bags out of the leftovers.) Actually, it was surprisingly reasonable in terms of size. Sure, one end is a little wider than the other, but it’s not so much larger that it looks ridiculous; and that might be related to sewing inaccuracy as much as cutting inaccuracy because I didn’t pin anything, just sat the machine and stitched. The fabric slid somewhat, so although I tried to keep the seam the same width, it probably isn’t; and although I held the cut edges, I’m sure that in one or two spots the cut edges don’t align precisely.

I sewed across one angled end, along the shorter side, turned another corner and sewed across the other angled end, leaving a gap to turn the scarf through. It turned through a treat, so I then top stitched the side and ends and left the unsewn side, well, unsewn. The longer side is about 82 inches, the shorter about 70 inches and the width around 5.5 inches. You know what? The lads think it’s very nice. You know what else? It is.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Rowing, Sewing

 

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