All the colour!

Oh, these November days. Even if you are lucky enough not to be affected by the rapidly diminishing daylight, there is no escaping the permeating gloom of a cloudy November afternoon. These are the days that we need good, simple things such as hot, fragrant tea, little tealights, cushions and… colour! I noticed during the last lockdown that what I chose to wear each day, each item’s colour and the overall palette had quite an effect on my mood. In the past, I’m not sure I would have put much sway on such a thing, but these days, it really does seem to make a difference. I have since become much bolder in my colour choices, because why not? I have even started to dip into my languishing jewellery box. All those fun, dangly earrings that I was saving for ‘special’ occasions! Isn’t today a special occasion though? Tomorrow, even more so!

With these ideas in mind, I thought that today, I would share with you a sample of what is on my sewing table and knitting needles these days.

I think that this selection is pretty representative of what’s going on around here! From the top down, the clouds and cheetahs have been made into two raglan long-sleeved t-shirts. I only got a metre of each and used plain navy jersey that I had in my stash for the sleeves and neckbands. The pineapples and the broccoli guys (!!!) are destined for two jersey dresses – nothing fancy, simply further iterations of the ‘Lady Skater Dress‘. I have had this pattern for quite a few years and I think that I have made about 7 or 8 of them by now. I wear them out! The bottom fabric, the one with raindrops on it, is from Maeve at Dress Fabrics. I have this cut out to be a ‘Union Street Tee‘. When I have it made up, I will share it here because I have accumulated a few thoughts on t-shirt patterns!

I also have these two lightweight needlecords lined up to cut out. The pattern I decided upon for these is Burda 6627. (Here‘s a link to an image search for the pattern.) It is a very straight forward shift dress with princess seams. I made it up the winter before last in a dark pink wool tweed and it’s such a wearable little dress! I think that in bright pink and turquoise, they will brighten any day.

So that’s what I’ve been working away on. The raglan tops and the dresses, because they’re just the same thing repeated in different fabrics, I have been sewing them factory-line style. This means that, say, for the dresses, I sew each stage of all three dresses at the same time – the shoulder seams, then the neckbands, then attach the skirt, and so on. It is a bit more time consuming, but still much quicker than sewing them one dress at a time. It sounds a little counter-intuitive but it definitely works! Any time that I want to sew a few of the same thing, like t-shirts or leggings, I work this way. I suppose that it is more oriented towards the end-product, as opposed to the process, but with t-shirts, there isn’t all that much to the process anyway!

Wishing you all a lovely weekend and I’ll be back soon with some pink knitting.

Golden Times

What beautiful autumnal weather we have been having here! Sure, we have had a few gusty days, and a few wet ones as well, but in between times, how beautiful that sunshine has been!

I hope that you will share my joy in having completed my Summer Halo jumper that I wrote about the last time! I am going to christen it my Golden Halo – for obvious reasons.

I still can’t believe that I managed to get a whole jumper out of just 300g! What I did was, because it was worked from the top down, knit the sleeves before completing the body. That way I knew for certain that I could have long sleeves. I was truly surprised that I was able to get a hip-length jumper out of the remains! I had only a few grams leftover. The yoke is a very simple lace pattern, but very effective.

The yarn worked out to be a fairly hefty sport weight. I got gauge for the pattern using 4mm needles. You might be able to see from the photo above that I included some short rows to raise the back neckline a bit. Other than that, I knit the pattern as it’s written – it is extremely straight forward. I would go so far as to say that if you’ve never knit a yoked jumper from the top down before, and you wanted to try out a lace pattern, this is a great place to start. Actually, just going back to the pattern page there, I realised that I made my sleeves full-length, whereas in the pattern, you just knit a cuff. So if you wanted to do that, you’d have to work out the rate of decreases (unlike me, my first sleeve does not bear scrutiny…). Here’s the link to the pattern if you’re curious.

I was going through photos that I had taken on my phone recently (by the way, how incredible are phone cameras these days?), and I noticed an amusing trend amongst the things that I have taken in the last two months. Bear in mind that I am an avid walker and love to get outdoors at least once a day.

Surprise! Swatching for the next thing.

October WIPs

As we re-enter lockdown here in Ireland, I thought that I might share with you some of the fun things that I have been working on! Autumn is definitely in full swing here and I have been really inspired by the beautiful colours changing around me. I might not be able to do anything about our 5km radius restriction, but there’s nothing to stop me enjoying the lovely things within it. I hope that you are able to find something similar. The last lockdown got me thinking about my gigantic bountiful stash and since then, I have been thoroughly enjoying diving into it and putting it to use. This is one such example:

I have always been drawn to this golden mustard colour! This yarn has been in my stash ten years now (!!!). I started knitting Hélene, a design by Veronik Avery for Quince and Co, but the yarn was a bit too dense for the design. (I subsequently did make that pattern, but in a thinner linen – you can read it here. It’s a great pattern! I still have the top and it is one of my most favourite warm weather makes. I still have the skirt in the photo, actually, I love it too and wear it all year round!) Anyway, this yarn is a DK weight, hand-dyed by the lovely Laura of Ellie and Ada. Because I had gotten the yarn to make the Hélene top, I only had 300g of it, so I was reluctant to start anything else in it, in case I ran out. I realise how silly that is! When I was organising things, I pulled it out and decided to just make something from it. I went on to Ravelry, had a search for a top-down sweater, so that I could maximise every last centimetre of this lovely stuff, and I found Summer Halo, a free pattern by Drops. Perfect! The lace yoke is simple enough not to detract from the amazing colour, but interesting enough to want to keep knitting.

Isn’t it nice? And that’s it unblocked! I love the stitch definition in the yarn, and the subtle variegation in the colour. I have been ploughing through this. Figuring that I would just make a short sleeved tunic, I decided to just keep knitting until most of the yarn had run out, and then add little cuffs to the sleeve edges at the yoke. But… I think that I might actually have enough yarn for sleeves if I don’t make the body too long!

You can see how far I am already on the body, and I’m knitting from the biggest ball on the right. The other two balls are 50g balls – one for each sleeve. I might just squeeze it! I think that, since I am already at the waist on the body, I will pause on that and knit the two sleeves. That way, I’ll be able to see how much longer I can make the body. It’s all so exciting – who knows what will happen!!

In other news, I have been reassessing my collection of jumpers. I love all of the jumpers that I have knit. Some of the very old ones now live at home in my parents’ house. Some that are now far too big, or whose colour no longer encourages me to reach for them, I have given to friends (that’s a super thing to do, by the way, if you have some forgotten knits – it is so lovely to see them wearing an old hand knit and being snug!). I have two jumpers lined up to be ripped out and reknit – more on that another day, because that is an interesting process in itself. Following a short conversation with the aforementioned Laura about the length of jumpers and making them as snuggly as physically possible, I was reminded about just how fantastic the tunic length jumper is. I have only one in my wardrobe, the Altheda that I knitted last Christmas. The fact that you can wear it over leggings and be super-snug is very compelling indeed. I considered adapting my other two Plotulopi knits (I knit two plain round yoke sweaters in dark purple and light blue last winter, just as basics for knocking about in), but decided that I have enough leftover to eke out another Altheda.

In the meantime, however, I decided to cut the hem off another old knit and adapt it into a tunic.

I knit this quite some time ago. I recall stalking the colour for perhaps a year before finally deciding on this yarn, Cushendale’s Mohair Bouclé. What a colour palette! As yarns go, it is a little on the expensive side, on the face of it. However, I would point out that its yardage is excellent, at 200m per 100g, and its bouclé nature means that you can knit it at practically any gauge. You could probably get a cardigan out of two balls, if you used something like 8mm needles and an open lacy pattern, such as Old Shale. If memory serves me correctly, I bought 5 balls of this to make the jumper and had two and a bit left over. I knit it using 4mm and 4.5mm needles as well. So it does go far!

In taking these photos, I realised just how much I have worn this cosy, cosy make and how the colour always makes me happy! So, after trying in vain to unravel the rib (not sure why I even bothered to try to unravel mohair bouclé…!), I just cut it off and picked up my stitches. That took a little time, because it is easy to miss a stitch in such a fluffy dense fabric. I am now half a ball through a ‘tunic extension’ and I am very much looking forward to having this back in my jumper drawer! I will definitely have enough wool left over to add a turtleneck to the collar if I want to. I’m not convinced about that. My Altheda is very warm and I think this mohair is even warmer than the Plotulopi, so it’s possible that a turtleneck would end being overkill. I could always knit a separate cowl to wear with it? That way I could take it off when necessary. Hmm. I’ll let you know.

Before I sign off, you might be wondering about the little label that I sewed in. I am quite lazy when it comes to these things, but my annoyance at repeatedly putting my jumper on back to front won out over my sloth. I made the label using one of Katie Green’s beautiful rubber stamps. You can find the full selection here. I used fabric ink and stamped it onto a cotton grosgrain, then sealed it with heat. I’m not sure just how wash-resistant the ink is, because the labels I have used on clothes have faded, but I may not have set the iron hot enough.

Anyway, I wish you a bon weekend! I will be back soon with a catch up on a very special knitting project that I was beavering away on all the last month that has now been delivered, as well as with an update on what I’ve been sewing lately. See you soon!

Summer Tops: New Look 6483

At some point during the lockdown, I slowly entered into the illusion that summer was coming and with it, the kind of weather that gives the impression that it is summer. The things we tell ourselves! Anyway, the last two summers, I made a small batch of t-shirts – a set of 3 plain t-shirts, and another set of 3 in prints. This has proved to be plenty, because we just don’t get that much t-shirt weather. But I don’t really have any woven tops anymore, bar the few shirts and blouses that I mentioned in my last post. It is funny because now, after many years of exploration, I find myself returning to really solid basics such as the Scout Tee and today’s pattern, New Look 6483.

NL6483 is that kind of pattern that one easily passes over. It is utterly non-descript. The cover has only line drawings and it looks a bit old-fashioned. But it a really versatile pattern! It is for woven fabrics, has three neckline variations (a high crew neck, a jewel neck and a square neck), two sleeveless variations (one where the edge comes right to the shoulder bone, the other being more cut away), and a version with sleeves. The sleeveless version have substantial facings. There is a simple button-and-loop closure at the back and that has a facing as well.

To start with, I decided to make a toile in some lingering, leftover Liberty fabric that I was being precious about. I went with the jewel neckline and the more cut away sleeve line.

The end result is nice but I had to do quite a bit of tweaking. The armhole was way too deep and not really the right shape. I had to put a small dart in on each side and mirror it in the facing as well. I just sort of eyeballed it, so it’s not totally perfect, but for a toile, I didn’t really mind too much.

The shape is really nice at the front, but it is cut away a bit too much at the back shoulder for me. Whatever about showing your bra strap, I find this type of shoulder line doesn’t give enough coverage for sun, or if I am carrying a bag, my skin gets irritated easily.

For my next two iterations, I chose to cut the high crew neckline with full shoulder coverage. The neckline really is quite high – I like it, but if you’re sensitive to that type of contact against your skin there, perhaps an amalgamation with the other neckline view would be better. I am really happy with how this one turned out! The armscye is a different shape on this view and I had no problems with its depth or with gaping.

The fabric came from Quilt Yarn Stitch in Tuam, Galway. I got it from them in May because I thought it was just so fun and summery! I ordered a metre and I had some leftovers. I made the hat (at the top of the post) from some leftover denim and lined it with the lemons. (The pattern, if you’re curious, is Sorrento Bucket Hat. It is a free download from Elbe Textiles and comes in multiple sizes.)

I didn’t use a loop-and-button at the back, opting instead for a hook-and-eye. It’s fine, but I find that when I wear a cardigan over it, it tends to open.

I made the same view again in a different fabric. I just loved this one! Those hens!

Again, the fabric came from Quilt Yarn Stitch and I used just shy of a metre for it. So, it’s a good pattern if you’d like to use a fun fabric but don’t want to get too much of it!

You can just about see in this photo how there is a small split hem at the bottom. You might think that it’s not worth taking the time to include this, but actually I found that it is a nice feature and gives a little bit of extra comfort across the hips. As well as that, it’s the kind of feature that looks nice if you choose not to wear it tucked in.

Funnily enough, the item I have gotten the most wear out of so far is the sun hat! It is possible that, after such a damp and cool July, we will have a settled and fine August and September, providing me with ample wearing time for these fun tops before things get properly chilly.

FO: New Look 6394

I went through a period where I mostly only sewed, but now I have hit on a nice equilibrium. It was a really interesting process, to slowly migrate to sewing a lot of my own clothes. I made lots and lots to begin with. Some worked out great, some not at all. Through each iteration, I developed a better sense not only of what I liked to wear, but also to sew. Within that, it has been fun to see what I like to wear vary over time, depending on what I have been doing. Whilst I was working in the university, I enjoyed making clothes to wear to work. I made a lot of day dresses and discovered that a knit dress is one of the most satisfying quick sews you can have. Since leaving that job and returning to full-time studies, not to mention full-time lockdown, I find myself more in need of some more basics.

I like open-front cardigans. They go well with dresses and with shirts and blouses. I have a few shirts in my wardrobe that I love, but I didn’t have any blouses. To me, the main differences between a shirt and a blouse is the collar (a blouse doesn’t have a collar stand), the button placket (a shirt seems to usually have a separate one attached), and the finish at the sleeves. I have patterns for blouses that just finish the sleeves with a simple hem, and others with a cuff but no tower placket. It is interesting to see how many details from mens’ shirts have crossed into women’s wear, and kind of funny to reflect on how arbitrary these gender-specific details are! Anyway, after quite some searching, I found New Look 6394. The cover photo is none too enticing but the details are all there! I liked how it has a tunic length option, as well as the option for a collar stand or a blouse collar.

I got the fabric in 2017 when I went to visit my friend in Paris. I stayed with her a few days and visited the fabric district. I had never been to a proper fabric district before so it was a lot of fun! I really love a bright plaid and couldn’t leave this behind. It was about €5 a metre. I cut the back yoke on the bias:

…and did my best with the pattern matching. I was very conscientious about it for the body but unfortunately neglected to check if the sleeves were symmetrically mirrored. It worked out reasonably well but I wish I had thought of it beforehand.

The buttons I had in my stash. I had only 4 that matched so I left off the 5th bottom one, because I find that usually gets caught in my trousers when I tuck it in anyway! The only other adjustment I made was to hem the sleeves much shorter. It is curious how a too-long sleeve can affect the finished appearance! I found in my search for this pattern that sizes for this type of blouse tend to be inexplicably huge. I cut the smallest size, which gave a finished measurement of a 38″ bust. There have been a few releases from independent designers this summer for a similar style. The Liesl & Co Camp Shirt has a really lovely feel to it, but the smallest size has a finished measurement of about 40″. Helen’s Closet recently released the Gilbert Shirt which has a more balanced size range, and a really nice option for a tie at the front. I had already bought (and made!) this pattern by the time it was released, so if you don’t have access to New Look patterns, they’re two nice alternatives for you with contrasting options.

I love the boyish look that this blouse has and I am pretty sure that I will be wearing this into the winter with a long-sleeved top underneath it.

I have been thinking a lot about what to keep in my wardrobe and the sewing of basics. I lost a lot of weight over the last few years and although that thankfully has stabilised, I find that my shape has changed. This is neither good nor bad, just different, and the more I think about it, the more obviously normal it is. I have gradually purged what I have. In the last year especially, I donated quite a lot of very old handmades. In the process of doing that, I chose the items that I loved but were now unwearably big and over time, adjusted them and have since readmitted them. Although a chore, this is very satisfying to do! I had a lovely button-down denim skirt made from a fantastic Japanese selvedge denim, for example, that I could take off without opening the buttons. Now it is back on a hanger! So although I am making less clothes, I am investing more time into saving makes that I know that I will continue to wear. I have no problem donating handmades as it makes me very happy to think that someone else might enjoy wearing it as much as I did.

As for basics, I have been thinking a lot about fast fashion and the ethics of the manufacturing process. The lockdown exposed some of the horrors that continue in countries such as Bangladesh and Indonesia. I have learned, through Garthenor Organics, how important certification such as GOTS and OEKO-Tex are. It is not just about environmental sustainability but also making a conscious decision to be mindful of fellow humans living and working in other places. For example, the GOTS certification also ensures that the people making that product are paid at least the minimum wage. I haven’t bought anything fast fashion-y for a few years now and when it comes to basics, like bras, knickers and t-shirts that I would normally buy in M&S or Penney’s, I am slowly teaching myself how to make these things and use up my fabric scraps. The t-shirts and knickers are easy enough. I have found a pattern for both that really work for me. As for bras, this is more complicated and I am in the process of trying out a Jalie pattern. More on that another day! Thanks for reading.