September 16, 2015

Happy New Year!

I adore this time of year! It is a time for fresh beginnings, new leaves, revised strategies and revitalised plans! The summer was a busy one for me – lots of playing and not much else. In June, I competed in another competition outside Milan. Amusingly, many people there knew each other from other competitions, and I met a few who had been in Taranto with me. I had mutual acquaintances meet at later competitions. The music world is very small, even on an international level. Again, I was eliminated but had the opportunity to speak with most of the jury. This was quite revealing. I learned that juries, by and large, want to hear standard competition repertoire – you know, the big, heavy, flashy stuff – and absolutely do not want to hear a piece that they do not know. I was told by one jury member that a piece I played – which is ferociously difficult, by the way – was not competition repertoire. I told her that I didn’t pick it for her, I picked it for me. This had an amusing reaction and our conversation did not last much longer.

I learned two other things. Firstly, it is a deeply chauvinistic world. As a woman, I cannot see how it would be possible to please a jury. If you play in a masculine style, it just doesn’t have the same effect as a man playing. If you play in a feminine style, it’s too ‘weak’ (big repertoire etc.). It would seem that you would need the magical combination of a good repertoire choice, a pleasing style, and the jury on your side to progress in any way. Secondly, it is an ageist world. They will always give the younger musician a prize in order to help a career. So, in both competitions, I saw young Italian men win quite a few awards when there were umpteen other pianists more worthy. I quickly saw that as an older woman, my chances of even progressing to the next round were practically nil! But I also saw that this had nothing to do with how I played! I think that if I were younger, this would infuriate me, but I have done enough competitions to really not care anymore. It was a fantastic experience and it gave me a huge confidence boost, funnily enough.

The rest of the summer was busy, but fun! I went back to Switzerland and played a Mozart concerto with the orchestra there (it’s a music course where you can play with orchestra). And then, when I returned, I played ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ with the Irish Youth Wind Ensemble in the University of Limerick concert hall. This was an incredible experience – such an overwhelming level of talent in the ensemble! – and I look forward to sharing the recording with you. I was really very pleased with how it came off.

I have even more news! I got a new job in a university. I used to work there a few years ago so I am delighted to be returning on a full-time basis now. I have a contract but I am hopeful that it will develop into a more permanent position. There are two aspects of this that I am thrilled about: working daytime hours and a short train commute. I have worked vampire hours for the last few years and let me tell you, it wears thin. You never get to go to concerts or socialise at normal times. As for the commute, I have the perfect combination of a little daily exercise getting to the station and KNITTING TIME!

This brings me to the most important part: actual knitting! I have a completed cardigan that I will show you shortly, but today I have a WIP and future plans to share.

First up is a round yoked sweater in Fyberspates Cumulus. I adore the shades of this yarn. One of my most-worn tops is a similar colour to this, so I thought a cropped pullover version would be useful.


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The pattern is the Basic Unisex Pullover from Hannah Fettig’s Knitbot Yoked. This collection of five yoked sweaters (with a bonus hat and mitts) sat in my shopping cart on Ravelry for about a year. I finally broke down and bought it. I want to knit them all! In fact, I have a lovely dark teal yarn that would be perfect for Kaye’s cardigan. Would those little dots be perfect in angora or alpaca? Something sort of fluffy?!

I am almost finished the second sleeve (sleeves! Ugh!) and I have my sights on the next item. Are you susceptible to bizarre, but unmoveable desires like me? I bought a short sleeved ribbed sweater from Gap about three years ago. It has diagonal shaping on the body and I love it. I have searched high and low on Ravelry for a pattern for something similar to no avail. Until I found Newsom! I have this Donegal tweed 4ply/sport in my stash for over a year now (maybe two years?) and I am dying to use it. This will be the perfect pattern to show off its tweedy goodness.


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Don’t you love when you knit a good-sized swatch, lay it down, steal the needles for another project, assure yourself you will totally remember what size you used, then totally forget, thus rendering the swatch useless? I love that!

Lastly, I have a deep need for cream cardigan. I have a fair few dark dresses and skirts and this would fill a considerable wardrobe gap. This is the Cushendale Mohair Boucle. Isn’t it awesome? I love how loopy it is. It isn’t at all annoying to knit, either. I don’t really have a plan for this one. I changed needles quite a few times on this swatch just to see how the textures would change. It could take quite a large needle. I think perhaps just a simple round-necked cardigan would do it, with garter borders.


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The other publication I have been sorely tempted by is a new offering by Elizabeth Doherty, called Top Down: Re-imagining Set-in Sleeve Design. It’s about $25, which isn’t cheap, considering there are only 6 patterns, but by all accounts there is a wealth of information contained therein. I am a long-term fan of the top-down set-in sleeve but there are issues with matching the look of picked-up stitches. I’m not convinced, either, by the look of the contiguous shoulder. I will think about it and get back to you.

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January 17, 2015

Bonne année!

Many happy returns, dear readers, I wish you all a fruitful 2015. I think for most of us it is fair to say that any year, in retrospect, was a mixed bag. I feel like I really progressed in my sewing; I found my knitting mojo again; I travelled loads. I made it to my third year teaching full time and still cycle most places. I had alot of good concerts, one shaky and one fantastic; I played out of my skin in two different competitions, came third in both and didn’t give a damn.

I’ve just been looking back through this last year’s makes, looking for my favourites, but I love and wear them all! I made tonnes of separates over the last two years so I’m naming 2015 the Year of the Dress! Dresses make things very easy. Other than the few wool shifts that I made (quite some time ago now), I don’t really have any simple day dresses. Everyone’s situation and wardrobe needs is different but maybe you feel the same way… I put together some inspiration for you!

As mentioned here, I searched long and hard for a good princess panel dress. I ended up going with New Look 6124, but other options I found along the way include the Aydan dress by Named, which has sleeves and the Attaché dress by Lisette (Simplicity 1666 – I made both the top and the dress version and found the dress just too flared to really want to make again).

But what if princess panels are too busy for you? You just want something simple, maybe to show off a really nice fabric? I found this a while ago – New Look 6302.

I really like the little jacket that goes with this. The only downside to this pattern is that it’s not lined, but if you’ve never sewn a dress, this is a really straight forward sort of pattern to start with. I like this Burda pattern for similar reasons.

It’s a petite pattern so measurements such as armhole depth, torso depth and so on, are more in proportion with a petite height. I really like how you have the option to make only the skirt, and the dress has sleeves. The main reason I haven’t tried this one out yet is because I always worry that this sort of style, with the long sleeves, would be just overpowering.

Speaking of sleeves, I have always loved the Hazel dress by Victory Patterns.

The high collar and bow mean that you can still have attractive details if you leave off the sleeves. I like the colourblock option, too, though I would worry about finding complementary fabrics too much to actually make this up!

Sticking with bows, another that I love (and have and am dying to make up!) is the La Sylphide blouse and dress by Papercut Patterns.

This is a deceptive pattern. For a start, I loathe the way all of the Papercut patterns are styled. I think maybe they’re going for a gritty, cutting-edge sort of look but they all just look bedraggled to me?! It’s a real shame because when their last collection came out, I totally discounted it because of that. I have since grown to really like many of their patterns, though have yet to make one up. La Sylphide is good value for money because you can make a blouse with a peplum, a full dress or just the skirt part of the dress. I really like all three options – the blouse would be lovely with a little pencil skirt, and the skirt is perfect for summer.

Another lovely, more casual option is Colette’s most recent offering, the Dahlia dress.

Like all of their patterns, it is really pretty but there seem to be some fitting issues! I’ve read a good few reviews that say that the neckline is a bit strange and there’s a problem when lifting your arms in any way. Luckily for us, there’s a sleeveless option and I think this version would be lovely for summer.

Speaking of summer, a super hit last summer was Grainline Studio’s Alder.

At first I was a little non-plussed at its release, as it’s quite similar to the Archer shirt. But I do like the ruffle skirt option, I think it’s so quirky and fun! We don’t get much weather for sleeveless dresses, even in the summer, but I think this would be nice with a little cropped cardigan, don’t you think?

Keeping with the shirtdress theme, I can’t leave out Named’s take on it from their last collection, the Wenona.

It’s one of the few shirtdress patterns I’ve seen out there that actually has the option for just the shirt. You’d think it would be kind of an obvious thing to include, right?! I love this pattern. I love the pleating option, and I lovelovelove all the possibilities opened up with the panelling, especially down the sleeve. You could keep it simple but do lots of coloured topstitching to highlight it. Or, you could use up some fabulous precious scraps and really show them off. I think I’m going to need to make one of these next Autumn. While I’m on the topic of the Named patterns, you should really just check out all of their dresses here. They really offer something a little bit different. Having made quite a few of their patterns now, I can unreservedly recommend them; their fit and drafting is the best that I have found amongst independent designers.

Last, but by absolutely no means least, we cannot forget little Bruyere by Deer and Doe! What a smashing pattern! (See my version here)

Now, I know it’s more of a tunic than a dress, but there’s nothing to stop you from making it a bit longer. Like all of Deer and Doe’s patterns, they fit just as they say they will and always have beautiful feminine touches. I love the fitted bodice and the small pleats in the skirt on this one. I think I will definitely be making another one of these! It is such a versatile top to pop on over leggings or skinny jeans.

I hope that has whetted your appetite and that you will join me in sewing up a few!

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October 7, 2013

Time passes quickly being back at school! All goes well. I have tidied up a few things so I have the same number of hours but less travelling, and an extra day in my main school. I have been working on a few things but I’m forgetful about taking photos! I have almost completed my October outfit so here are a few hints until I get it finished up.


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silk and cotton lawn that I couldn’t resist getting stuck into.


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A brown wool crepe skirt that has the texture of a loaf of bread (in a good way?).

I’ll talk about the patterns when I show the outfit. The fabrics are part of a package I ordered from Truro Fabrics in England. I picked them because they have a great selection, pretty good prices, reasonable delivery if I use my Parcel Motel, and they had everything I was looking for. I ordered a number of things, including a black poplin which I have made up into a shirt for Alb. I hit a few roadblocks – I was hoping to finish it before September was out – so maybe you’ll see it next weekend.

Speaking of fabric, I ‘inherited’ this rather fabulous suiting. There is a whole story to this so when I get started on it, I will share then. The red stripe isn’t nearly so conspicuous in person.


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I tend to gather a lot of vague ideas (see my Pinterest here), returning to them when I see something that triggers my memory. This is where these come in.


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The birds print is a cotton lawn from Murphy Sheehy’s that I saw quite a few months ago, noticed but ultimately passed over. Later in the summer, I was in Tommy Hilfiger on Grafton St (not because I ever shop there – I think I was waiting for something) and spotted this bird print shirt. I really rather liked it but there were maybe too many birds on it and it was €100+. Fast forward to last Friday when I was browsing in Murphy Sheehy’s and at €12.50/m, enough for a shirt came home with me.

As for the plaid, what can I say? I did not realise how picky I was about plaid, or even pickier about plaid flannel. Prompted by all sides, I started to consider various things like a flannel dress, or a tunic with shirt tails, or just a cotton plaid shirtdress. But the problem with flannel is that it can be very flannelly and I don’t want something that I will be constantly peeling off my tights or leggings. Add to this mix the popularity of really bright plaid at the moment – which is great, don’t get me wrong, just not for this imaginary dress. So, quite by chance I happened upon this soft cotton plaid in The Cloth Shop. It’s soft enough to be not a straight-forward cotton but not so fluffy to be an outright flannel. Win!

(I find it amusing that everyone I’ve ever met who says that they’re not a picky person inevitably finds a way to show me something they’re irrationally picky about. I am very unpicky about most things but it appears that I have found my one thing!)

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September 2, 2013

Autumn/Winter planning

Filed under:AW Wardrobe '13,Plans-Ideas- Designs,Stash — Aileen @ 08:00

I think I did quite well with my summer sewing and planning (you can see all of the relevant posts under this tag). I used up some really old fabrics and I postponed others as they were more autumn appropriate.

I have some needs to fill. Firstly, I need a few more smart-casual pieces. I think a blouse made from the cream print habotai (seen here) and an olive green cord skirt will be my next makes. I have a navy chambray primed and ready to make this shirt dress. I have wanted to make this shirt dress for at least two years and think it will be perfect for back-to-school weather. (I don’t start back until the 16th!) These are my immediate makes.

Other autumn plans include a cropped wool jacket with coral polka dot lining!

I don’t know what I was looking for but I came across this vintage pattern on Etsy. I just liked the whole ensemble and it’s in the half size 15 that fits me perfectly. Imagine my joy when I discovered that I have just enough grey wool to make the jacket. I have been sitting on this substantial remnant since making my grey Ginger skirt. I adore the skirt and still wear it constantly. I remember being a bit cranky about the price but I am glad I sucked it up because it has shown no signs of wear whatsoever. The lining is actually a fine polyester I bought to make a summer top but the more I considered it, the more I realised that I would get very little wear out of it and it would be much more useful for this project.

Another vintage pattern I have been looking forward to making is this little blouse.

I have some white cotton poplin left over from something else and again, the pattern is in that magical size 15. It comes with the pencil skirt pattern also, but I think it might be a bit stuffy for teaching kids (not to mention impossible to cycle in).

Murphy Sheehy’s are always best for winter, with their ever-changing stock of wools. The really useful colours tend to go fast so when I was passing the other day, I picked up some that I know I will get great wear out of.

The top left is a fuschia wool blend jersey. The top right is a raspberry wool herringbone. Originally I had thought this would be a good skirt but got the remainder of the bolt for a great discount and now I have enough for an Anise jacket. Two jackets might seem overkill but I have a serious coat deficit at the moment. I have been wearing my Lisette jacket all summer and realise that a good jacket goes a long way.

The bottom navy is a wool herringbone and I plan for… culottes! With pockets!

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June 15, 2013

Polka dot Scout

After disassembling my bicycle tshirt the other day, I got it in my mind to tweak the Scout pattern as there were some aspects I didn’t like so much. Even cutting it to a size 0, there was too much fabric around the waist and in the sleeve caps. So I took in a bit here, added a bit there, and this is the result.

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The battery is dead in my camera so we’ll have to make do with phone pics this time, sorry!

The fabric I got from Pippa Blue at the K&S show. I think it’s a Robert Kaufmann cotton. It’s not as stiff as your usual quilting cotton so it drapes a bit better.

You can see the shape and fit better here.

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My modifications were these: I’m about a 35″ bust and 28″ waist so I found cutting the recommended size 6 to be way too baggy. That’s the style of it, though, so it depends what you like. I cut a size 0 and then, I took an inch out at each waist side seam (so 4″ overall) and drew in the curve so that the hip measurement stayed the same. I raised the neckline 2″and I took 3/4″ out of the top of the sleeve. I think it worked pretty well.

Speaking of Pippa Blue, I was able to visit earlier this week and I picked up these really fantastic fat quarters!

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They are so fun, I’m not sure what I’ll use them for. Maybe the one on the right for something kitchen-y and the one in the left for a project bag.

I also picked up this marvellous navy floral print.

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I was eyeing it for quite a while online and let me tell you, it is even better in person. I paired it here with a Kona cotton that I bought this time last year for a blouse but never got around to it. I think these go really well together – something like a quarter circle skirt and a sleeveless fitted shirt to tuck into it is what I have in mind. These are both washed and ready to go so I’m hoping to get stuck into both really soon (like, tomorrow).

Have a great weekend and hope I have something to show you Monday!

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