Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Must resist the urge to flash my pocket linings at strangers

I made trousers!

Plain, grey, work-appropriate trousers are perhaps not the most exciting garment to blog about, but they fit, which makes me want to do a little happy dance.  (Actually, I did do a little happy dance.  The first time I put them on I bounced into the room singing TROUSERS TROUSERS TROUSERS YAY, which may have alarmed Martin a bit).  My wardrobe was sorely in need of these since I can count the pairs of trousers that fit me on one hand while still being free to engage in a quick thumb wrestle, so my first victory of the year is a pretty big one.

These started life as Simplicity 2700, which didn't last very long as Oh My God that muslin was baaaaad.  So very bad.  I wish I had taken a photo of it before I started hacking it to pieces because it was so hilariously awful.  It looked like my arse was melting.  I had a few confused attempts at trying to save it before giving up and starting from scratch drafting my own trouser block, using Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's Wear (I love this book).

Much better.  Incidentally I've started using Instagram this year (@pieandhandkerchiefs), and one of my workmates thought these were the finished trousers that I'd made.  I appreciate that as a non-sewer she won't necessarily know what a muslin is for, but I'm a little concerned that she thinks that bright blue stripy clown pants would neatly fit into my personal style.

While I abandoned the main pattern, I did continue to use the (slightly adjusted to fit) waistband, pocket and fly pieces from Simplicity 2700, as well as mostly following their instructions for the construction.  Aside from one dumb moment ironing interfacing to the wrong side it all went rather well considering how many years ago I last made any trousers.  The only issue I had was how weirdly short the zip fly was which makes the trousers a bit difficult to pull on, so that's something I'll definitely change if I make these again.  It's especially odd as the envelope specifies a 7" zip, but the fly piece, minus seam allowances, is only about 4" long so there's a lot of unnecessary zip wastage and a highly inelegant shimmy to try and get them over my thighs.

My favourite part of these is the secret happy pockets.  All trousers should have these.  Especially office trousers.  Except they aren't super secret any more since I can't resist showing everyone who cares and plenty of people who don't.

This is possibly my biggest victory of the project - 3 completed buttonholes and still juuuust enough thread to attach the buttons and hand sew the hems without having to order more online.  I can't find Gutermann anywhere in the shops near me and I refuse to buy Coats thread because I'm still recovering from all the thread nest headaches it gave me in university.  I have of course subsequently found another reel of grey thread since having this panic but I feel that's beside the point.  

Anyhoo, enjoy these photos of my magnificently clad lower half, while I bask in the trousery smugness and try to talk myself out of wearing the same thing to work every day this week!

Here's to more 2016 successes!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Magnum Opus

This project has been SIX YEARS in the making, and I am so happy to say it's finally finished!

I first started this hand-knitted testament to my insanity in May 2009, when I announced to the blog that instead of working from the already reasonable Vogue Knitting charts I wanted to re-chart Every Single Country to make the map more accurate.  I believe those charts are still available as a pdf here.  However after all that work are they accurate?  No.  No, they are not.  Because this:

Now looks like this:

NOOOO!  Curse you South Sudan!  I'm sure you probably had your reasons for the split, but did any of you think about me?  I don't think so.  I think this happened around about the time that I was knitting the last panel, back in 2011. Never mind, I can always embroider over the top of it later if it really bugs me, but for now I'm just happy that I can actually point to Sudan on a map.

As you can imagine, there were some fairly large chunks of time that I wan't working on this (I know it's big, but I'm not so slow that it took me six solid years to knit), so after knitting the main map on and off for 2 1/2 years I then abandoned it for about a year before sewing it together with a border, and then another 2 years before I got round to actually finishing it.  That was my main worry as I was really nervous about backing it without ruining all the work that I'd put in.  I wanted a wall hanging rather than a blanket, and since this thing is ridiculously heavy there's no way I could get away with hanging it up without stabilising the stretch somehow.  I bought some curtain fabric from Ikea in April, seamed it into one big panel with some hanging loops and then...sat and stared at it for several months.  

In the end I've gone for a mix of strength and neatness, so the edge is attached with 3 rows of machine stitching which sort of disappear into the moss stitch border and the middle, where machine stitching would be visible, is all painstakingly hand sewn to the backing.  This was pretty hard on the fingers so I could only do a few rows a day and it ended up taking a month to finish, but I think that's pretty quick in comparison to all the previous years!

The map has now been hanging up in my living room for 3 months (it was lovingly draped in fairy lights last month), and it still makes me grin every time I come home.  Every meticulous hour I spent charting countries, weaving in ends, embroidering islands and hand quilting the back has been totally and utterly worth it.

Plus every guest to my home now gets a free geography lesson on the side!

Friday, January 01, 2016

The Stuff What I Did Last Year

Happy New Year!    Everyone all over the blogosphere is busy posting grand round-ups of their highlights of the year, and meanwhile with my epic total of 6 posts this year I'm sitting here thinking 'crap, I still have finished projects 4 months old that I haven't even photographed yet'.  Hence, this will be the grand catch-up of 2015 instead.

First off, Christmas! YAYYYY!!!  I made all of zero handmade gifts, though I did receive handknitted goodness from my Mum and Granny, which made me feel very loved and only a tiny bit guilty.  

My flat, on the other hand, is festively adorned with new knitwear in the shape of Alan Dart's advent calendar

There are supposed to be 24 knitted tree decorations in the pockets as well, but seeing as I've only finished 2 of them I was forced to put Lindor truffles in instead, which was a terrible hardship to bear every afternoon in December.

Horribly twee cross stitch!  I don't care, if you can't be twee at Christmas when can you be?  Also, this continually makes me giggle because it reminds me of Celebrity Jeopardy.

I got this ornament as a kit in a swap a few years ago and it was fiddly as anything, but it's sparkly!  Wheeeeeeee!  I'm fairly sure I left a bead or two everywhere I worked on this as I'm a clumsy twit and kept knocking over my loose beads.

Isn't this little guy sweet? Awwwww

Next up, the oldest of the projects, which I finished in September to wear on holiday, and haven't worn since because I-know-this-Winter-is-mild-but-it's-not-quite-bare-arms-mild:

This little lady (as brought to you by my shiny, shiny face) is Blithe by Rowan, knit in Fine Milk Cotton - which is gorgeous to knit with and lovely to wear and is of course FREAKING DISCONTINUED!  DAMN YOU ROWAN!  So discontinued that I couldn't find a single ball anywhere when I ran out.  I started this years ago so I have no idea whether I lost a ball, or I didn't buy enough, or the pattern's wrong, but either way I didn't have enough yarn to add the little cap sleeves so I had to fudge the finish with a rolled edge to match the neckline instead.  Oh well, I still think it's cute without the sleeves, so I'm looking forward to wearing it again when the weather warms up.

I've also made up an Akita from Seamwork, which I finished in November? I think? and haven't worn once because congratulations Hannah, you made something short-sleeved in Winter again.  I am a namby-pamby Southerner who does not cope well as soon as the wind starts to pick up a bit. This is a very basic pattern with cut on cap sleeves, which would probably look fine in a more drapey fabric, but in my bog-standard polycotton I sort of look like I'm trying to take off.

I belieeeeve I can flyyyyyy

Nothing a little hand-stitched inverted box pleat can't fix 

(Something fascinating on the floor here)

While I'm happy with the sleeve fix I'm not 100% convinced about the top as a whole - I'm not sure if it's genuinely unflattering or if I'm just really not used to wearing this style of loose clothing.  Maybe I'll prance around the flat in it a few times before I unleash it on the outside world.  I made the skirt as well in the blogless years - New Look 6843.  It doesn't get a huge amount of wear as it has a tendency to stick to my legs and I've been too lazy to add a lining.  Maybe I should wear it with a slip?  I'll probably need a thermal vest or two this Winter so perhaps I'll pick one up at the same time and cement my old lady status.  Anyhoo, back to Akita...

What I didn't like about this top:  the way the sleeves and hem splits are dealt with.  Unfinished edges on a stress point?  Bleh. Not great.

What I did like about this top:

Bias facing on the neckline (though I'll admit I found the instructions a little confusing and had to go to my Threads magazines for help).  I've done lots of bias binding in the past but this is the first bias facing I've ever done and I not ashamed to say I found it a leetle bit sexy.  I added some cotton tape bra strap holders as well since it's a wide neckline and they work great...until I inevitably forget I've done them up and get stuck with my arms in the air halfway through taking the top off.

Last knit of the year!  A tiny hat for Tornado Jim, the new babby at Martin's cycling club.

Not much to say about this.  Martin asked me to make a hat to match the team kit; I knit in the round, I decreased the top, I embroidered on the Tornado Road Cycling Club logo, job done.  Parents were chuffed, and while I have not met Jimjam himself I have it on good authority that he did not immediately throw it across the room.  Success!

Last up, the final installment in the trifecta of seasonally inappropriate clothing:

Hmmm...I really should get this lino replaced

This is the Walkley dress (picked up in the Sew Independent bundle) which was so ridiculously simple that the most complex thing I did was match the stripes. So not much to write about this either.  I am actually wearing this right now (super comfy, and I have no business leaving the flat today so I don't need to worry about being warm), though admittedly I am wearing it with an enormous paint splattered man's hoodie and fluffy slippers so I don't look quite so put together today.

Finally, if you've made it this far, I have one more project that I've finished, but it's a big one and deserves a post all of its own.  Here's a clue:

Home sweet home

Happy 2016 and here's to making things I can actually wear within 3 months of finishing them this year!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Smorgasbord of Booties

Ah, I've gotten myself behind on blogging again, what a massive surprise.  Some day I will get my head round the concept that if I say 'I'll wait till the weekend to write when I have more free time', then I actually should use that free time to write rather than just sitting on my bum in front of Netflix. Having said that, I was actually away on one of the weekends on a mini break to Dublin, where I met up with my travelling buddies in various pubs (yay!), did some tourist-peeping at the Book of Kells (yay!) and bought fabric (YAY!). I haven't been finishing massive amounts of stuff in the meantime, but since I was already behind before I went away I now have 6 unblogged finished projects, some of which go back to September...oops.

So, to start catching up, last week was my friend Hayley's baby shower, and I knitted her a selection box of Debbie Bliss baby booties.

Can you guess what she's having? While I was happy to find one baby gift box amongst all the Christmas ones I do find it a bit weird that instead of, say, 'It's a boy' or 'Baby boy' the box just blurts out 'BOY' like it has tourettes.  I think they're reasonably happy about having a fella, seeing as there were celebratory penis balloons all over the house.

These booties are all from Debbie Bliss Ultimate Book of Baby Knits, and have all been knit with different coloured soles as a cute design feature because I was using up leftover yarn.

These are all knit flat, which I guess is great for beginner knitters who are still nervous about double pointed needles, but it isn't my favourite method as I found the seaming a major faff and the soles are a bit of a funny shape.  Still, I do think they're all really cute.  I love baby knits - they're quick, they use hardly any yarn, and they satisfy my feminine urge to make something ovary-crushingly adorable without, you know, having a baby.

Happy to say there was much squealing and showing off at gift opening time - since Hayley's clearly such a knit-worthy recipient I think I may end up making more once the baby arrives! I can definitely see a baby viking hat in my future...

Monday, November 02, 2015

Rosetta, the glamorous assistant - Isn't she amazing?

Guys I think I just made my best Hallowe'en costume to date and it's all down to the fabric.  Ok, it's somewhat down to the pattern as well, but Oh.  My God.  The Fabric.  Instead of the usual 'dress up as something scary' shindig my awesome friends threw a circus-themed murder mystery party and I was assigned the role of glamorous magician's assistant.  Obviously my brief for that was going to be skin-tight, shiny, and as tacky as I can get, so I nearly wept when the aptly named Cheap Fabrics threw up a pink and purple leopard print/zebra print monstrosity.


I used the Nettie pattern from Closet Case Files, which I got in the Sew Independent bundle last month - I will readily admit this is not the first thing I had in mind when I saw the pattern, so I'm sure it will be re-used for slightly more real life appropriate garments.

I cut a straight size 10 low-neck, low-back dress with no modification other than to lengthen the skirt and leave a slit in one side - this isn't the most forgiving fabric so I had to suck my stomach in a fair bit, but I imagine in a slightly firmer knit it would be a damn good fit.  I may give the low back a miss next time though; as Heather rightly pointed out in her sew-along having only half a shelf bra does pull on the side seams and gives the shoulders a tendency to slip off.  I still think the shelf bra is genius though - being able to go braless in October with nary a peep of neeps is ruddy marvellous.

Of course no costume is complete without accessories, so I finished the look with fishnets, a feather headdress, the cheapest feather boa I could find (Poundland FTW) and as much make-up as I could fit on my face.  I think I left bright pink feathers all over Alix's house.

Stole my friend's boyfriend to be my magician - he didn't get the memo about the pink.  Very disappointing.  I don't think my friend minded too much as she was secretly having affairs with both of us while being married to the murder victim.  Who then turned out to be faking his own death to frame the swindling knife thrower.  Meanwhile I had an inescapable alibi as I had apparently managed to lock myself in box.  All prime fodder for some excellent drunken ham acting!

Hope you all had an equally silly weekend!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Evening all, how are the trials of winter treating you?  Grumble grumble grumble.  Ok, so it's not proper winter yet and it's actually been unseasonably warm today, but still, ugh. Darkness. My brain is still lingering in the Portuguese sunshine and Daylight Savings really sucks ass.

It could also be that I'm already grumpy because I've had to order new glasses for my tragically ageing eyesight.  Oh for the youthful days when I still had perfect vision.  It's not so bad as I only need them for distance, but that does mean that my job won't pay for them as I don't need them to use a computer.  Booooooo.  I have also learned that when you're a cheapskate who refuses to pay for anything but the cheapest frames there is a very fine line between middle-aged shushy librarian and PAY ATTENTION TO ME I'M SO HIPSTER!  Hopefully I won't utterly hate the glasses when I go to pick them up.

Sooooo, now that I've bitched enough about my own eyes, how about I ruin everyone else's?

Kapow! Are your retinas bleeding?

This little beauty which escaped from the UFO mountain this summer is Posse from Rowan magazine 51, knit in the specified Cotton Glace, which I now HATE with a fiery passion.  It was not easy to weave in these ends, and holy tuna there were thousands of them.

That's just the stripy neckline, so you can imagine how messy the back of the intarsia looks.  Since mercerised cotton doesn't stick to itself like wool does I had to leave a bit of end still attached so it didn't start unravelling - I've tried to strike the balance between so long it drives me crazy and so short it sticks through to the outside.  I've...mostly succeeded but there already a few stragglers which I'm stoically ignoring.

It's also a little on the cropped side which I don't really love, but that might just be because I don't really own a whole lot of suitable clothes to wear with cropped jumpers, so maybe I'll grow to love it.  Or perhaps it'll stretch?  Is that a thing?  How about if I get it really wet and hang weights off the hem?  Hmm. Probably not the best idea. 

This was photographed a while ago, pre tripod and remote, so I managed to persuade Martin to take one decentish picture on my phone before he got bored and wandered off to play truck simulators or something.  So make the most of it, awkward and fuzzy as it is, because I am far too busy skipping around in my Insane Stripes of Joy to take another one.

P.S. If you think this is bright, wait till you see what I'm making right now - it's not for everyday consumption so it doesn't need to be as tasteful and restrained as this was.  Oh god, I can't wait to wear this...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sun lounging

I'm writing this on my phone on holiday - I'm not sure about the mobile app for blogger and I definitely don't like the app,  so who knows how this is going to look when I hit publish.  (I miss WordPress a bit but I'm wondering whether 3 posts into the blog resurrection is a bit premature to think about moving it.) I suppose this is my comeuppance for not blogging about this sooner, but on the other hand I'M ON HOLIDAY!  I have made a thing for the sun which is ACTUALLY BEING WORN! IN REAL LIFE SUNSHINE! I may even get someone to take a picture of me on a sun lounger before I publish to prove it. 

When I say I should have blogged about this sooner I actually mean a month ago, before my pyjamas, and before another dress which I haven't even photographed yet, which means that this is the very first garment I've made from a pdf pattern - celebrating the fact that I finally got round to buying a new printer.  It's also the first thing I sewed from start to finish in years and I wanted to just whizz through it without getting stifled with ideas of perfection,  which hopefully explains why I didn't even consider matching the prints or...err...making a muslin. I should have made a muslin. The pattern (Mojave) is from Seamwork, so it's designed to be simple enough to not really need a muslin but yeesh.  The thing was gargantuan. 

I mean come on,  I know it's supposed to be an easy breezy loose bikini cover up, but surely the point of a bikini cover up is that it, you know, covers up some of your bikini? And the back? 

Oh, hello potato sack. All is good now though,  after hiking up the shoulders about an inch I cut a centre back seam which took a good 5 inches out of the top and up to 6 or 7 at the waist! 

It's still a little bit 'is there a stealth pregnancy under here?' in the front, but woohoo! I have a spine again!  Definitely good enough for lounging outside the holiday villa...

Yeah baby!  Trashy novel - check.  Gin and tonic - check.  Wet patches on my boobs to prove that I have been in an unheated pool,  outside, in mid-October - check.  Love you Portugal x