Saturday, 19 July 2014


Aside from the occasional temperature adjustment I've never really managed my children's wardrobes. I never wanted to fight over anything as trivial as how they dressed and I wanted them to develop their own taste and style aside from approval and rebellion. For girls in particular fashion can be such a poison challis.

I love the way my kids know their own mind and make decisions on their own (they appear fairly oblivious to trends and peer pressure and branding). I get to be a part of it because I make so many of their clothes and I enjoy the collaborations we have choosing patterns and fabrics. They each approach these sessions so differently.

Recently Amy identified that she didn't have something warm and 'nice' - a going out to dinner type over layer - so we set about choosing something for me to make her on the knitting machine. She wanted a cardigan rather than jumper, with snap closure and a high neck and was keen on the idea of fair isle, but hazy on details. She perused my stash and made some choices.

I swatched this design, a sort of Nordic inspired bare branched trees motif from punch cards I'd borrowed (thanks Jules!). I liked that it would make a pattern that wasn't all over, simplifying the raglan joins and neck from a technical perspective but still providing a striking and beautiful feature. Amy approved so I pressed on.

Using the punchcard feature of the knitting machine for the tree design but also the knit radar feature which allows you to knit direct from a schematic I knocked out the sleeves, back and two fronts in about 5 hours. Well, actually I knit 3 sleeves since I made a monomuental mistake in one and had to rip it out and start again.

I washed and blocked all the pieces then joined all the raglan seams using the linker.

I then put all the neck stitches back on the machine and knit the collar, finishing with a turned hem, then seamed the sleeve and underarms. Another bath and block to remove the machine oils on the yarn and then I sewed popper tape to the front opening.

I was feeling pretty pleased with the result until Amy tried it on.

Too small! You can't see it in this photo but the sleeves were a good 10-15cm too short and e rest is wearable but tight. A whole bunch of stuff contributed to the problem, small amounts of inaccuracy on a number of fronts added up to some major size difference. The most disappointing aspect of this was that while I had plenty of the green yarn still (calypso colour in holst garn) I didn't have enough of the silver yarn (Rennie lambswool and cashmere in Apollo colour) left to start again and I can't find anywhere that ships it to Australia.

But Amy was seriously in love with it, so rather than waste time trying to find more of the same yarn she settled for the much scratchier cashmereless lambswool holst garn in a 'slate grey' that I had in the stash. I upsized the schematic, corrected my gauge calculations and set off.

Another half a day of solid knitting, washing, blocking, seaming, rehanging and collar knitting, washing and sewing on poppers and she now has a new version. This one is on the loose side (I'm hoping for 2 winters) and the yarn colours provide for much more impact.

Only problem now is what to do with version 1.


Friday, 11 July 2014

must make

A lot of makers talk about the need to make. The urge, the passion, the compulsion. It's all true for me.

I make for the joy of making, I make to enjoy the things that I make, I make for the pride of having made.

But I also make to diffuse difficult emotions, to meditate on problems, for respite from inescapable things.

Sometimes that's a conscious choice but quite often that need is well disguised.

I don't connect my sudden and compelling need for a new [insert hand made item here] with the fact that I am currently experiencing [insert life stress here]. I can totally fool myself into it. I go make to deal with whatever I can't deal with.

Those stresses aren't always bad things, sometimes they are big excitements, waiting for good things about to come, too much good stuff happening.

But I have come to understand that making is a way in which I moderate and regulate my experience of the world and my response to it.

I consider myself very lucky that my urge is to make rather than, say, drink or gamble to get me through but I am trying to get better at owning up to the legitimacy of making as an emotional practice. I've always defended making as less a hobby or pastime than an essential domestic skill. It's so darn practical to make your own clothes, right?

But this has never explained why I have gone on knitting something I know full well I will end up ripping out, why I regularly stay up way too late before going on a trip somehow convinced I absolutely need to sew myself a few items of new clothing before I can depart. I've been known to buy awful op shop yarn and a crochet hook just to crochet a string bag I will never use.

It makes sense to me now that I have learned that the making is an essential component of me not losing my shit. It's more important than sleep or a sensible conversation when my temperature is rising, more helpful than strategy, more fundamental than insight. It's the bit that comes before, during and after a crisis that makes sure I don't get lost, it's trails of breadcrumbs that mark my path.

These photos are the things I have made since my last post. There have been a couple of others I didn't photograph, things made hurriedly or in the dark of night, or too insignificant to record. But yeah, it's been a making kind of month. Not everything has been a grand success, but I'm strangely unconcerned by that. I'm just glad I've been making.

Monday, 9 June 2014

up there

Amy and I have just got home from a weekend in Sydney. Despite spending the preceding 10 days in bed coughing and wheezing, I decided to go ahead. And I'm so glad I did! We had such a lovely time.

We caught up some of the fantastic people I've come to know in Sydney - even though I was doing my best to keep things low key their company really made the trip. This online world has given me a great deal in terms of connecting with people over the last decade and my time in Sydney was so much the better for it.

Through the social networking marvel that is pin drop (best travel app ever) I also gathered a fantastic list of recommendations for places to visit and eat. As a direct consequence we had a flawless run of spectacular meals (a big ask for a Melbourne girl) and interesting interludes.

Mr Wong was a standout - despite being pushed through in a stupidly short period of time (out by 7.15pm?! Was that really necessary?!) - the food was absolutely brilliant and the fit out is great. Amy tried all the food - even the things well outside her comfort zone and set the tone for the whole weekend by being a delightful, mature companion. If this is adolescence - I'll have more!

As always when in Sydney we lunched at Chat Thai, which was excellent, and tried their new venture Samosorn, which was equally good.

We had an excellent breakfast at Bill's, and another at Paramount, which was perhaps more intersting than excellent given the menu features pretty much no regular breakfast foods. Breakfast at Kitchen by Mikes was delicious, as was lunch at flour and stone and afternoon tea extravaganza by la renaissance was every bit as good as we remembered from our trip in 2010.


Another fantastic recommendation took us to the secreted away Masuda Gallery, full of delightful Japanese paper and textile delights and the consumer lust inspiring Koskela homewares shop.

The MCA is a regular stop whenever I visit Sydney and we were super lucky to catch some the works in town for the biennale. We also explored the opera house, which Amy found particularly interesting, and marveled all over again at its wonderful construction and detailing.

Plus, the best ever toilets.

In addition to all the fun, I was delighted to teach a class at Tessuti Surry Hills. As good a group of students as you could hope for, all enthusiastically making bags.

I talked myself hoarse and generally had a fabulous time while the ever inspiring and faultlessly kind Colette took some lovely photos and helped entertain Amy. Seems totally wrong to call that work! For someone used to working in very large and impersonal organisational environments, every experience I have working for the dedicated and talented family that run this business feels like a privilege.



Thursday, 29 May 2014


I got a great strike rate this last craft camp. A good mix of projects and good success with a number of items that were a bit of a stretch. I'm trying to get a better balance between the practical family needs, my desire to use specific fabrics from the stash, to try new exciting patterns and do some experimentation to push me out of routine choices.

It's hard to get the balance right. I'm a bit of an ADHD crafter and method, order and need can fly out the window with only slight provocation. I'm trying a few disciplines to push me to be more strategic and if this camp is any indication, I'm on the right track.

I always start with a to do list, but I've started collecting projects in advance of camps now, settling aside fabric and pattern in my special camp tubs. I also survey the kids wardrobes to try and find the oncoming holes I should plug before they become urgent, I try and have one exciting new project and at least one potential wearable muslin - expanding my repertoire without the pressure to make it awesome.

I've also started using my first day at camp just cutting out. This is my second camp doing this and it works really well. I can use the time before everyone arrives and there's more space to work with, and somehow cutting them all out stops me from dithering over what to do next. It also means I can organise the project order to minimize changing threads on the machines. I also figure if I don't get to sew them all they will be more likely to be finished off at home (or next camp) if I've already committed them to scissors.

I started with a simple skirt, the Norma from Ottobre 5/10. The pattern was so simple I was skeptical it would be good so I used a knit remnant from Tessuti that was just the right size. It came out better than I expected, but I think next time I'd use a heavier fabric.

Next up a repeat of the cowl neck vest from Ottobre 2/10 - another very simple quick project I've made a few times before. It's great for layering over long sleeve Ts in the office and I just squeezed it out of the left overs of some lovely soft slightly felted light weight wool jersey from a project from a few winters back. Another Tessuti remnant.

Next up I tackled I a project I've had in my head for months. I wanted a skirt with big pockets. I drafted the pattern from another very different Ottobre skirt - turned 4 panels into 6 and added the gapey pockets into the panel seams. I had to alter the original quite a bit - it was too flared first run - but the changes were easily made and transferred back to the pattern, so I expect to make another work oriented version soon. I love this Tessuti denim I used for jeans a few years ago and am very glad I added some extra to the stash. Big thanks to Amanda for donating the gingham for the pocket linings! I absolutely love the end result, it's exactly what I wanted and it feels so good to have made the pattern myself.

Next up the (planned) increase to the lad's long sleeve T store and the (unplanned) robot short replacements. The kid doesn't need shorts, especially at this time of the year but a few days before camp he tore right through the backside of his favourite linen robot shorts and was very down about it. Luckily I'd added extra robot linen to the stash at the time and since he does wear shorts all year round I indulged. Luckily he requested super simple elastic waisted ones with patch pockets, so they were quick to make. I admit to flat felled seams because, well because he's fussy and I'm indulgent.

Next up the girl child got a skirt made not with a pattern but a wave of her hands and some favored images from a google search. From what I understood her to want, I made her a simple high waisted and gathered skirt with centre back invisible zip and sewn in sash. I was a bit worried about fit since I was flying blind and didn't have her with me to try on so I made it out of a medium weight cotton elastine textured fabric and placed the ashes to allow her to cinch the waist to fit. A very grown up addition to her wardrobe and a change of style for her. Interesting turn of events.

I picked up this remnant of viscose jersey from Tessuti and it really made me think of hungry hungry caterpillar. I was a bit worried about how busy the pattern was, so I used it for a simple long sleeve version of the tired and tested Lola T from Tessuti. I can team it with black pants and skirts and cardis for winter office wear.

Next was my big excitement project, the Genevieve coat from StyleArc. When I saw this pattern I was full of love for the neck and interesting design lines. I was a bit concerned to launch straight in without a muslin, but the coat is so much work I couldn't bear the thought of making it as a tester only. Instead I decided to take a risk, helped along by having this charcoal wool flannel from the $10 roll sale at Tessuti just before Christmas.

The pattern is fabric hungry so I was glad to have enough, especially since it turned out that while I'd made a few standard preemptive tweeks to add a little extra width to the hips, I ended up needing to recut the under sleeve to add an extra 1.5cm width. Aside from the sleeve mod, the rest of the coat is a good fit and I really like the design. It's a closer fit than I usually choose but I like it a lot. I'd make a few changes next time, and I'd like to see if I could adapt the neck onto a different garment - a shirt maybe?

Like a number of StyleArc patterns there were some details that annoyed me. Some pattern notations were missing, and the order of the construction make up could have been done more efficiently. The lower design lines didn't quite meet between the front and back panels, which was just sloppy drafting and shows what I have previously suspected that they don't test their patterns properly. Since the patterns don't come multi sized I think they are a bit pricey for the quality. I'm sucked in by their offerings, they have some great designs but I wish they were a bit more rigorous with their drafting and instructions.

Lastly I made a Tessuti Eva dress out of wool for layering over winter Ts and leggings. I'm super happy with this one and managed to sew it up much quicker than the last two. I used a dress weight twill weave wool with a small amount of elastine and great drape - it's lovely to wear! I can't recall where the fabric came from - I suspect a past Tessuti roll sale, since a 3m piece of black dress wool isn't my usual impulse buy and too big for a remnant. It's plain but elegant enough for office wear, and the elastine makes it super comfy in a snug fit across the bust. I expect a lot of wear will be had.

Sadly I returned from camp in an eerie repeat of May 2012 with a sudden and vicious onset chest, throat, sinus and ear infection, rapidly accompanied by asthma. I stupidly went to work Monday, but by 7pm I was off to the doctor and given a kick start on the drugs with warning to stay in bed and have the ventolin and steroids at hand. I read back over the post I wrote back then and it was interesting how much the same and yet how different things seem. It's Thursday night now and I'm still in bed, but hoping I've turned the corner a little. I've still got hours of The killing to watch on my sideways propped laptop so I'm going to take it very slowly even if I do feel better.