Thursday, 16 November 2017

Simple Legwarmers in Malabrigo Rios

This pattern is called Simple Legwarmers, by Wendy Easton.  It’s a free pattern available on Ravelry.

I followed the pattern, casting on 52 stitches, but got the idea from a different pattern to do k1p1 cuffs for about 7 rows. 

These are really easy so there’s not too much to say about them.  I chose the pattern because I had this yarn: Malabrigo Rios (in hojas) and I did not have size 3.5 or size 4 needles, which limited me from a bunch of other nice patterns.  This was the best compromise based on the yarn and needles I had, plus cold legs (I didn’t want something too difficult.) 

I measured from ankle to knee and that’s how long I made them. I used size 4.5 Chia Goo bamboo sock needles for the cuffs, and have to report that the short needles made for socks piss me off, my stitches kept falling off.  Also these needles are really sharp.  I used size 5 Addi in the round for the rest, using the shortest cord that my amazing kit had in it (the Addi click turbo kit, a birthday present from my mum!)  It was a bit alarming to see the legwarmers stretched on the needle but of course they shrink back down fast.

I used Jeny’s super stretchy bind off which is now, rather embarrassingly, the only one I know. 

I didn’t block them because I couldn’t see the point. I get that blocking makes scarves longer.  But is there a reason to use it on tubular things like legwarmers before they stretch out of shape? 

Anyway I put them on and have only taken them off to sleep.  It’s no joke living in a village with no heating - emergency upcoming project is handwarmers and I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m getting very 19th century chilblains on my feet because I just can’t feel them half the time.

I mentioned on Ravelry that if I were going for fashion I would prefer legwarmers in a finer weave and I will get on with those lace ones as soon as I can access the supplies.  (Er and the time…)  But for simple warmth these do, and I think when I return to civilisation I will block them (to make them smaller) and then wear them squashed down as per the photo below.

And the Malabrigo rios is as always delightful to work with, warm and chunky to wear.
On Ravelry too!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Life goes on: sock knitting

I started to knit these socks right over new year 2017.  My idea was that I’d knit these low cut socks and do two pairs so that I could start to understand the anatomy of the heel.  Also I knew that I had a swath of time ahead where I wouldn’t be able to sew.

The pattern is free from purl soho.
The yarn is koigu sock yarn, also from purl soho.  I love this yarn - it has turned out even more beautiful than I imagined.

As always I overestimated the size of that swath, and I overestimated my desire to knit while in airplanes.  I’ve had a personally traumatising life event occur because I was knitting on a long haul flight while all the other passengers were sleeping, and the airplane crew threatened me with legal action if I didn’t shut my window (and my eyes.)  I didn’t really get at the time that I did actually have rights and the power to do something about this situation, and the memory of that uncomfortable flight (it was well over 10 hours) stays with me.

So I managed to complete one sock while working in Thailand for a week.  (I thought it would be cute to kind of colour block with the blue - but I didn’t bother on the second sock.)  I started the second sock and got past the heel - and then my time ran out.  The first sock, even after being blocked with really hot water, was a disappointment.  It was loose and the arch was about 2 inches below my arch.  Learning to knit socks seems hard enough, without having to add in some kind of high arch adjustment!  Also a friend has knitted me a pair of socks that fit perfectly so I know it’s possible.  My goal for the second sock was to pay attention to knitting as tightly as possible to see how much difference it made.

So after the usual life transitions (+9 months), I found myself in Nepal ready to knit.  This sock was the first thing to finish before moving on to some other immediately useful accessories (it’s cold!)  I finished it without much ado, and luckily one other volunteer doctor in the area is addicted to knits!  She was ecstatic when I gave her these socks.  Her feet are a little bigger than mine and so I think the socks fit better but I suspect she’s also too enthusiastic to be a critic.  (Not a bad thing.)

I’m not going to use this pattern again.  It may be that having a sock which goes higher up the ankle helps to counteract bad fit in the foot - at least it is snug somewhere?  I also think that for my next pair of socks I’ll err on the side of smaller needles to see if that helps.

Sorry for limited photos!  My internet is quite slow so it’s easier not to have to load too many things at once.

And this is also on Ravelry. 

Saturday, 4 November 2017

You never thought I'd say it: plaid Archer - DONE!

If you have ever stopped by my blog there's a decent chance you know one sad fact: I am really bad at pattern matching.  Partly because I am really bad at following grainlines. Nor do I own a grid mat, or a proper cutting table, or have a sewing room.

Maybe I finally hit the point where I learnt something, or maybe it's just luck that once in awhile a pattern comes together just right.  But I have to say, I worked harder on this Archer than I worked on most projects in my six months in New Zealand.  I prepped the fabric in one intense session about 3 weeks before leaving and it was the last project requiring any actual thought that I was able to fully concentrate on before catastrophic life dissolution took over.  It took over a week of painstaking effort to make (excluding the buttons, took another few weeks to get around to).  I love it.  I don't even wear this type of shirt very much but I love it anyway.

Size: ? Possibly a 4 and possibly a 2-4.  I traced the pattern in Ukraine over a year ago, and didn't write a lot of detail on the tissue.  Whatever I did - worked.  My measurements are 33-27-37.  I know I was itching to shorten the pattern and I think I didn't do that.

The fabric is a soft brushed cotton by Helmut Lang, from emmaonesock.  I had been waiting for just the right cotton plaid.  This was it.

Let's thank Thaniswar, my coworker, who never expected blog photos to be part of his job description.  (But I'm not going to apologise for not owning a hairbrush at 4200m.) 

I am also now noticing how obvious it is that my pockets are not really in the same place.  I hadn't put pocket marks on my pattern pieces and I spent DAYS moving the pockets around...c'est la vie...

The insides are all french seamed and look amazing.
The only little quirk is that I must have gotten the buttonhole placements wrong on the sleeves because they are too far away from the edge.  It's something I can live with.  The cuff edges stick out a bit, but I envisage that I will really wear this shirt over a tshirt and with the sleeves rolled up so I won't care. 

As you can see by my photos, I've changed scenery pretty drastically.  I'm working with the Himalayan Rescue Association as a volunteer mountain doctor for the trekking season, in Pheriche, Nepal.  So if you happen to be trekking to Everest base camp, stop by!

Because this was my last major project, I decided to post it last. And of course as I sewed it I took some time to reflect on the differences between sewing fast knits, sewing projects that just crop up in your head and say "let me out!" and these slower projects - as I've been prepping to make an Archer on and off for about 2 years.  I was thinking about how I want my next year of sewing to look.

In case you are interested, or in case you live in Perth - I'll be moving to Bunbury, Western Australia in December and I'd love any advice about the area and about sewing in the area!

I'm really glad that life is making me take a breather from sewing.  And my goal for next year is to commit to slow fashion with a challenge of myself that I'm calling my one-per-month challenge.  I think there are a few public groups doing something similar.  I'm not going to plan ahead too much - I want the choice to be spontaneous and reflecting my interests as they shift through the year - but I envisage that each month I will choose 1-2 patterns in a theme and only sew those patterns - and only once or twice.  I want to prioritise preparation, imagination, and my own excitement.  I want to make my own fashion feel like couture fashion.  I have spent about 2 years avoiding buying any button up shirts - because my own Archer was swirling in my head.  It took that long to find the fabric, to do the research, and to finally take the leap.  And it was worth it.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

French Navy Orla Dress in Orla Kiely stems

I got sucked into the excitement of anorlaaffair, which was an Instagram sewing challenge, in July.  I mean, a simple woven dress!  Free pattern!  Yeah, it was easy to get sucked into.  It was just the middle of July when my sad departure from New Zealand didn't feel too impending and I was going wild with patterns and fabrics and random ideas.

So I cut this out in a size XS.
The size chart for the XS: 81-63-87
My actual measurements: 83-67-94
The size chart for the S: 85-67-91.

Can you note some foreshadowing?  I have been sewing a lot of knits...but I'm not sure that's any excuse.  I know I have wide shoulders after all so on a dress like this if anything I should size up.  Oops.

The fabric is another piece of Orla Kiely stems, from Saved Fabrics etsy shop.
I really adore this rainbow fabric and I was totally excited about this dress - enough to try a few things.  I french seamed the side seams, although I still held off from doing so on the sleeves.  I assume you can't french seam a gathered waist but I remain puzzled how to finish it in a nice way.

I moved the back zip to the left side so that I didn't mess up my stem pattern.
And I skipped gathering the sleeves and just made haphazard tucks as I came to the top of the sleeve.

Well I got to nearly done and popped the dress on and realised it was a solid 4" too small.  I mean I could not get this dress on.  No chance.  And so it wilted into a UFO on my floor until I realised it might fit my friend's daughter.  (His 8 year old daughter.)  But still it sat there because now I was galvanised by moving panic and too many projects in too little time. 

It ends up I sewed this literally in the last hour before I had to put my sewing machine into a box.  I do give things to op shops when I'm not satisfied with them, but having a project nearly done, and a potential - and potentially excited - wearer, I just couldn't box it up undone and leave it for 6 months.

So here's the failed Orla:

In the end it didn't fit the 8-year old, but another colleague at work had daughters who it does fit, and they love it!  The best bit is that this colleague is Irish so the Orla Kiely connection seems like a match made in heaven.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Cocoon Cardigan x 2 by Patterns for Pirates

I saw a reference to this cardi, and to this pattern company, a little while ago and completely discounted it for a very good reason: you have to measure and cut out your own bands!  Quel horreur!  Couldn't be doing any of my own measuring, no chance, and so I never considered the pattern more attentively.

And then one day at work I realised my radiographer in the office sewed and she was wearing a beautiful grey the end of that shift I had the pattern printed in my hot little hands.  I cut a size XS.  I had to have a friend over for moral support when I made the pattern piece for the bands, but I survived just fine (it's not hard.) 

My first version has been showcased here.  I wanted to get an idea of how the pattern came together, and I knew that long and grey were in its future.  I used the short body, with the wide cuffs, long sleeves and long sleeve cuffs.  No pockets.  I thought it was a bit silly as it's really short and doesn't come around to the front very much, but in truth I started wearing it the minute I made it and I wore it, um, until I made the second one.

Which I know took exactly an hour and 20 minutes to make, because I made it before work on my last shift before vacation, and I was late to work. 

In this version, I used the long body, wide band, long cuff and long sleeve, I think. Plus the pockets, which are totally amazing.  I made it for my birthday, took it to Australia with me, and wore it every day.  This fabric is a blend of merino and silk, I snapped up 3 meters at Designer Textiles in south Auckland - where I went on a fabric field trip in early August.  Because of the silk in the fabric, it drapes really nicely.

Then I had to make a striped one which is exactly the same as the grey one (except in plain merino):

 I was getting a bit rushed so some ironing of the band didn't happen - that really helps to make it lie flat.  But do you see something amazing!?  Do you see that I managed to match my stripes?  Including on the pockets?  I think I must be on a roll as I also got working on a plaid Archer around the same time.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Musings on pattern placement

This post has less to do with the patterns that I used (which are the Patterns for Pirates coccoon cardigan and the Sewaholic Renfrew) and more to do with planning, reflection and instinct in sewing.

I am reminded of something that Sophie first put on her instagram. (here) She didn't blog about it.  I'm not sure that link will work for everyone but the gist of it is: she bought fabric from the Fabric Store because a piece of fabric said Take me home and make this dress!  And the vision was absolutely electric - the dress is crazy but it works and she looks amazing in it.

When I do that - when I know exactly the fabric, when I have enough background about the pattern, and I have the skills, ie I'm not pushing my level too much and can therefore push the pattern to be its very best - when I demand that the result be not just wearable but amazing - it is.

And I don't bother to do that very often.
I think that instinct is the hallmark of the sewists that we follow, although taking good photographs probably helps.  They have, by luck or by hard work or by talent or by experience, figured out their own style and they are willing to put in the work here and now in this project to make it as close to perfect as possible.  And the results look amazing, they are worth the effort. They are that magical thing we all want to achieve: better than RTW.

I bought a huge amount of mountain print merino in Auckland at the Designer Textiles warehouse.  It had paint splotches on it and a few holes here and there so they gave it to me for 5 dollars per meter.  Of printed merino.  I took lots.  And my first goal was to make a top with a mountain on it, similar to a certain one that I coveted by icebreaker.

I had some plain cream fabric to use as the accents, but despite my instinct, I went with mountains for the sleeves.  This project quickly fell out of my favor.  The mountains on the chest are somehow in...the wrong place.  The mountains on the sleeves are...annoying the hell out of me.  The whole business doesn't work. 

I took this and toned it down.  I listened much harder to my inner voice and popped out this little Patterns for Pirates cocoon cardigan.  I was careful to make the upper sleeves only pieces of blue sky, and the cuffs and the hem band are cream merino, not the patterned stuff.

This one works a lot better.  In fact, this was a chance to test out this pattern and I went crazy shortly afterwards and made lots more cocoon cardis!  Patterns for Pirates has my attention!

I was very reflective after this experience.  Making one project badly definitely led to thinking harder about making the second project right.  But what kind of commitment do you have to make to each sewing project to make every single one count?

(PS I still had friends who liked the Renfrew so off it went to a new, happy home.)

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Deer and Doe Chataigne shorts in Liberty cord

After my first pair of Chataigne shorts I was so excited to make a second pair!  I had this great Liberty fabric and the size 34 had fit really well in a stretchy fabric, other than being a bit short.  So I wanted to make them a touch longer, and thought in the nonstretch fabric a 36 would be perfect.

I had one meter of fabric, minus a bunch of little pieces that were apparently sent as swatches.  So I had to use lining from elsewhere.  I was nervous about ironing the cord but eventually stopped being very cautious about it. I generally tried to make sure I was ironing over two layers so that the pile wouldn't go flat, but it's pincord anyway and I could barely tell the difference when I didn't.

Construction went as before, except for a small caveat - in the meantime between cutting this out and finally making these shorts, about 3 months went by.  Wintery months.  So they never quite got to the top of my list and I only finally put in the effort and made them sometime in August. 

You can tell that I was lazy with ironing, but I was also lazy with the waistband.  They were so great, that I thought I'd hand sew the waistband down like I did on the first pair.  But I had so little eventually I changed my mind and just stitched in the ditch.  This caused the waistband to twist a little and not lie perfectly flat.  It's not a big deal at all when I am wearing them.  Just the standard results of yet another move coming up - rushed sewing.

There was a tiny pleat right at the v front - I marked the front, I did everything right, and still I couldn't get it to come out perfectly!  But the busy fabric saved me as it's pretty invisible in there.  I also forgot to make them much longer so I used hem tape - just used about 2 mm of the hem and then folded the tape inside.

They are great!  I didn't finish them in time to take them on vacation to Australia, unfortunately, but in December when I get to Australia (semi-permanently) they will get lots of use.

However after making this pattern a few times, I think that the pockets are good, but the pleats in the front and the v of the waistband are less than flattering.  The butt bothers me a bit too if I am being picky.  I don't think I'd use these as a best-ever shorts pattern, but they are consistent with Deer & Doe sizing and definitely cute.