The annual dress – vintage cherry blossoms

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Every year I purchase fabric at the Knitting and Stitching Show to make something for each of the girls. Sometimes it takes quite a long time to get round to making it. I set a goal this year to complete each girl’s dress by their birthday, which would ensure they were both done within 6 months of fabric purchase. Which is quite quick, given that I have some fabric from years and years ago…

This dress pattern was requested on one of the only times I was accompanied to the show (really, that show is no place for kids – it’s boring, and so crowded you are constantly afraid of losing your child in the crowd). I think she loved the drawing, with the very full skirt puffed out. I tried to explain it wouldn’t look quite like that – she didn’t care, she just wanted it.

The fabric is cotton, with cherry blossoms and a Torii gate, and was a dream to work with. I made a mistake in cutting out, which meant the closure at the back had to be bodged together. But it works and the fullness of the skirt ensures there is plenty of cover where the back opening overlap is a bit more shallow than it should be. I don’t love sewing in button closure on the back – not only does it mean lots of button sewing and buttonholes, but she can’t put it on herself.

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Still, she loves it and it was done in time for her birthday. Success!

Leafy red jumper – successful knitting, if not style

The Peabody is a gorgeous pattern, with a lovely leafy stitch panel front and down the arms. According to Ravelry, I made this about 2013, which kind of blows my mind because I’m only just getting around to photographing it and posting about it. I love the pattern and am pretty pleased with the making of it. But it doesn’t get a huge amount of wear – in part because it’s quite warm and I rarely need a jumper that warm. In part, because I don’t really wear red often. And in part because it doesn’t look as good on me as it does on the model (surprise, surprise!). Anyone with anything more than an A cup might just find that their chest stretches that front panel out in a strange way.

Never mind – when I discovered that I have had it for something like 7 years already, I was pleasantly surprised because it does get worn a couple times a year (at least) and it is a pretty great feat of knitting. Heaven knows I’ve spent as long on other projects that haven’t lasted so well.

 

Unicorns in space!

It is now tradition for me, at the annual Knitting and Stitching Show, to purchase fabric to make dresses or skirts or something for each of my daughters. There is always a good selection of reasonable printed cotton or poly-cotton. But this print might be one of my favourite prints ever. Because it’s unicorns – in space.

The dress is New Look 6442 and is made slightly larger than required, to allow for growing into and longer wear. My daughter LOVES it and I often have to talk her out of wearing it when the weather is too cold or she has PE that day. I’m convinced the main reason she learned to tie her shoes was so she could also tie the dress herself (thus allowing her to wear it on PE days, when the kids have to wear things they can get in and out of themselves).

Unfortunately, after many months of wear and a few washes, it is now on the mending pile, following a round-related incident which saw one of the ties pulled/ripped from the side seam. I haven’t been able to look at it closely to see how easy it’ll be to fix – partly because I was so annoyed and hurt at the damage, and partly because I HATE mending things. Once I’ve finished the next dress, for the older daughter, I’ll rethread the machine and attempt a fix. Until then, the unicorns are grounded.

First of a new favourite – the Filati wrap shrug

On a holiday in Bavaria last summer, we came across a small wool shop where I picked up a new (to me) knitting magazine, Filati. I then promptly lost it by leaving it at the end of the supermarket checkout as I collected some food for dinner. I was so disappointed, and couldn’t get back to the wool shop to get another, so I went online and ordered a series of the back issues to come to my house in the UK. It wasn’t cheap, but in a holiday mood, I figured it was a souvenir of sorts and worth the spend.

I’m so glad I did – this is hands down my favourite knitting magazine. Each issue has so many items I would love to knit. The main problem is that it’s in German (although there are issues and patterns written in English, the magazines I bought are all German). My German is basic at best, and translating knitting abbreviations is beyond my current abilities. Thankfully, Google Lens does a halfway decent job on my behalf, and with experience and logic, I can get a pretty decent translation done within an hour. Then I have my wonderful colleague and fellow knitter Susanne, who is German and very kindly reviews my translations for me, pointing out where I’ve gone a bit wrong. Huge thanks are owed to Susanne!

So this was the first thing I made – a sort of funky wrap shrug shawl thing. It’s a bit weird, a bit left field, and that’s why I love it. I used a cheap wool found at the Knitting and Stitching Show, which was fine. I’m somewhat regretting not using the recommended wool (although I’m not sure I’ve ever done that before in my life), as I am curious if it would have come out differently. I also should have made the armholes a bit bigger (my upper arms not being a svelte model size) and I realised once done that I missed a final decrease in the lower arms. It has had one outing, as of course the weather warmed up all spring-like as soon as I finished it.

But I’m definitely smitten – the very next thing on the needs was another Filati pattern, a spring/summer lacy vest and the next in the queue is a Filati pattern using the recommended wool. My knitting practice (and German vocabulary) has been somewhat transformed.

I don’t even like the 50’s style…

IMG_20200107_124040I buy patterns that never get made. Maybe most sewers do – it looks good in the drawing, the photos are nice, maybe you kind of wish you could wear that style or look that good. I’m not sure why I bought Simplicity 3673 – I don’t even particularly like the 1950’s as a style, and frankly it’s not really my style.

In any case, I’ve had the pattern for a while and never made it (that’s surely a sign). Then I had some lovely blue green wool, originally purchased to make a tailored suit jacket and skirt. (And funny pattern story there – bought the wool to make the jacket, then realised that the pattern was the wrong size – too small – and therefore I didn’t have enough wool. And as it was purchased at a show, no way of getting more). So casting about for something to sew, I put pattern requirements against fabric available and decided to make this dress.

Now perhaps it would have turned out better if I had gone for the pencil skirt version. Or perhaps I should have tried a different full bust adjusment (or even just realised that ickle gathers under the bust were NEVER going to work for me). In any case, I did try and adjust the pattern to fit at the top better – kind of failed because I have NO patience for toiles, even when I know how much better they make the final product.

In the end, the dress is OK, but the bust isn’t quite right. And the style isn’t quite my style. And though the wool is lovely, I don’t love the dress. So beyond wearing it this one time, I haven’t worn it again. It will get a few more outings, to see if I can develop a relationships with it in different weather. But seems like I still haven’t learned – when you’re short on sewing time, focus on doing things that will suit you, that you love, and do them well.

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Stripey winter poncho

First off, this pattern is a summer pattern, or at least that’s how it seems in the magazine. But I live in London, so winter knits are far more my thing. Also, I rarely knit with the suggested wool, and I wanted to make this but didn’t know quite what to make it with. So I was driven by what I could find at the Knitting and Stitching Show that was the right weight and wouldn’t clash too much with my wardrobe.

Which is how I ended up with a winter poncho – warmer and a bit less drapey than intended. A little kooky and weird. And in not the nor very inspiring colourway of black and grey.

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But despite all that, I do like this. It’s comfy (how could it be otherwise) and more interesting that a straight up v-neck. It took a while (especially having to rip back about 20 cms when I realised I had started miscounting where the all important shaping stitches should be), but it wasn’t hard. So while I don’t love it, it has a place in the winter wardrobe for now.

Slouchy mix match aubergine suit

This suit was better in concept than execution. The fabric isn’t at fault – although a soft linen probably needed a better choice of patterns. It was purchased a couple years ago at a Santa Cruz, CA fabric shop just down the street from where I used to live in college. I made the trousers first, from a Papercut pattern (Nagoya pants) and made a mistake in measuring and adjusting. This resulted in the trousers being far too large around the hips and backside, and I went through numerous attempts to make them fit properly. I’m still not sure I’ve managed it. The pattern also would look better with a stiffer and heavier fabric. Despite sewing for 30+ years, it’s still very possible to make many many basic errors!

I then cast about in my patterns for a jacket that would match. This was not planned from the outset – again, a mistake. This is the classic Vogue Chanel style jacket – and again, this is probably not the right fabric or treatment for a successful make. The jacket is a bit more successful than the trousers, but I’m not thrilled with either and suspect this won’t get much wear.

It’s a disappointment, especially for someone time poor, to spend so much time making something that isn’t great, fits well and that you love. Don’t get me wrong – it’s super comfortable, and it’s not terrible – but it’s not something I see in my closet and get excited about.

Lessons that I seem to need to keep learning:

  • Don’t buy fabric on spec – only buy it because it’s the right thing for a pattern you’re making
  • Choose the right fabric for the pattern – and don’t just match up what fabric you have with a pattern you have and hope for the best
  • Take time with the measurements and when you can see it going wrong during the make, take the time to fix it then and there!

And despite this failure, and the lessons above, the next thing I made was – you guessed it – finding some fabric and then picking from patterns I already had and hoping for the best…

 

The mysterious purple cable and lace knit

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. My rate of creation has slowed since having kids, but that’s not the only reason. Getting things photographed when they are worn seems to be a task that I struggle with.

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In any case, my lovely work colleague finally took a shot of this lavender cable and lace number, which I’ve had for 1, maybe 2 years now. I’ve worn it several times – it’s a good ‘in between seasons’ piece. But the down side is I have no memory of which pattern it’s based on. I only recall that it came from a magazine. Big help eh?

The bottom ribbing was lengthened (nothing I hate more than a too-short jumper) but otherwise, knit as written.

Liberty Work Shirt

IMG_20170110_105838058I struggle to get button down shirts that fit correctly. Getting the right bust size so you don’t have a “between button peep show”,  without it looking like a tent is hard enough. Then there’s getting a shirt long enough in both the waist and the arms. So I have, over the years, attempted to sew my own shirts for a more custom fit.

The advantage of the V9029 pattern is the use of princess seams, which allows for an easier full bust adjustment. Having said that, I didn’t end up needing one as I went for a slightly fuller fit for comfort. Still, it’s nice to have that option. I lengthened the body but didn’t need to lengthen the arms.

IMG_20170110_071038025This is a nice pattern, with just the right amount of detail to make it a good work shirt without so much detail or technique that it becomes a pain to sew. Some of the detail is lost in the pattern of the fabric, but I reckon this would look smart in a solid colour as well.

The fabric is a Liberty print, purchased for £15 per meter – so overall the shirt cost about what I would expect to pay for a standard off the rack shirt. I’ve no plans to make another just yet, but the next time I feel the need for a new work shirt, this will be at the top of the list for patterns.

Monkey bread for the end of the year of the monkey

img_20170101_180117579Funny how you can forget things for a really long time and then, BAM! – out of the blue, a childhood memory comes back. I hadn’t thought about monkey bread for decades until I agreed to do some cooking with the Year 1 children at my daughter’s school. As I cast about for a baking recipe that would be simple enough, and interesting enough, for a bunch of 5-6 year olds, I remembered making monkey bread with my mom.

Now, in the end, I didn’t make this with the children. First of all, when I made it with my mom, we made it the easy way with pre-packaged dough. As I so often find with American recipes, the shortcuts that help just aren’t readily available here (I’m looking at you Bisquick). And secondly, let’s face it – it’s super unhealthy. So, the school children got quick and healthy-ish banana muffins. And my kids got to make full-on monkey bread with me on New Years Day*.

So, for my European readers who have no idea what monkey bread is or how to make it, check out the from-scratch version by James Martin. It’s pull apart bread, all cinnamon-sugary and sticky. <drool>

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It was pretty darned successful, and tasted pretty much the way I remembered. And also – super messy to make. But delicious. You’ve been warned.

* That’s the Western New Year, not the Chinese New Year mentioned in the title. The Year of the Monkey will end on Friday 27 January.