Sunday, 31 May 2009

Thursday, 28 May 2009

flirty skirty

Oh looky here, it's a new pattern!

A skirt recipe for any size and wool weight with a pretty lace border round the bottom. It also has a clever concealed hem at top for a bit of elastic you'd never know was there but will ensure you aren't left with your pants, er skirt, down. Just right with boots and tights on a cool day or with bare legs when it isn't.

And because I like to celebrate these things I'll give away a copy to a random commenter or two this time next week. Please remember to leave an email address!

I also meant to say the link above is to but the pattern via ravelry. If you aren't a Rav member feel free to email me directly and I'll email the pattern to you for $5.

knitathon for refugees

Join New Hope Werribee in a massive ‘Knit Off’ for Refugee week 20th June 2009.

We would like to invite the wider community to participate in trying to knit between 3-400 scarves for newly arrived refugees settling in Werribee to be handed out on Refugee Day.

Tell you friends, family,
colleagues; get out your knitting needles, and a cuppa. Any colour, shape, size (babies to elderly).

More information phone Alison 9974 1700

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

just letting you know

To all those who read this post or followed my tube updates on twitter and who might be wondering where things are at. Because I am sure you have nothing on your minds except my health.

The tube thing was awful - worse than awful - but it is over. And it has ruled out surgery. This is a major release from the wondering about what the heck will happen next and a hello three night craft weekend. Very happy about that. Very happy indeed.

Not so happy that the not knowing about my asthma, what causes it, if I can do anything about it blah blah. Perhaps we'll never know. Anyway, until the next cold I'm cruising.

And planning a mountain of projects for sew journ. Summer clothes. Which should be kind of funny in the middle of winter.

Monday, 25 May 2009

cashmere and bean dude

cashmere and bean dude, originally uploaded by Soozs.

I've made a few sock monkeys in my time. And on the last craft camp they were all the rage. Gave me a bit of a stirring.

Then someone found me the perfect starting point, some really lush soft wool and cashmere socks in lovely stripey colours.

For the first time I used stuffing beans instead of polyfill and I am overwhelmed by how they change the look, feel and personality of the finished toy. Definitely for the better. He happily sits up unaided and strikes hilariously human style poses. Leaves my previous chaps for dead.

He was a bribe to win back the affections of a pissed off 6 year old who had been shafted and knew it. Now I have to make another for the 2 year old who will soon detect a new presence among us and have his turn to be all huffy. I'm planning on finishing number two at the Burda Style sewing club. Let's hope the boy doesn't work out what's up before then.

*edited later - thanks for all the compliments! The socks really make it, they are from Holeproof. I didn't use a pattern this time around but my first monkey was based on this one. Also for those who don't know about stuffing beads, they do the same job as rice or lentils in a soft toy - except they are washable of course. Which is handy. I bought mine here. And any allusions to pregnancy or new babies are entirely in your own minds! The new presence in our house is indeed the monkey not a miraculously materialised baby. And for future reference, me and babies are all done.

Friday, 22 May 2009

fabric led journeys

Firstly thanks for all the lovely comments about the jacket. I was getting a bit nervous that all my self-promotion would turn out to be a case of emperor's new clothes. Glad everyone is affirming me in my self-delusion.

The whole jacket experience has had me thinking. What was it about this experience that was so special? I love the jacket and all, well obviously, but there's been a certain kind of magical experience which surpasses the obvious gains.

And I'm not really sure, but it has something to do with the fabric. You see, I think I don't really like the act of sewing so much as I like the act of transforming fabric. You might think I'm splitting hairs here, since the two are so closely aligned, but the truth is I love fabric, not sewing. I love it in the way some people love works of art or food or dogs. I love it passionately. I love the miracle of its construction, its variation, its wildly divergent properties and effects. I love what you can do with it, the way it feels, the way it behaves. I love that it even has behaviours.

There was a time, a while ago now, that I did quite a bit of work with wood. D and I used to plan and construct all manner of things. His knowledge and vision is far superior to mine in that medium, but at the time while he taught me about that kind of construction we planned for me to teach him about construction in fabric.

It was a disaster. D just couldn't make the transition from inert materials to fluidity of fabric. It keeps moving! he'd say, how are you supposed to know how to measure and cut and how it will look when you're finished?

It is exactly this problem which has resulted in my many and varied sewing disasters. Fabric cut just a whisker off grain, with more or less give, with more or less drape, with a sheen with transparency. Patterns used twice with different fabrics creating such remarkably different garments. There really are a remarkable range of variables.

So I guess it isn't surprising that a range of quite human metaphors might be used to describe fabric. That it is alive and behaves, unlike wood or steel which (in the main) just is. So there is always the element of surprise, no matter how skilled or experienced you are, there is always a sense that it isn't until you are finished and trying something on that you can really know what you are getting.

This unpredictability is what gives rise to the Rules. I learned to sew largely through trial and error (a process I have described elsewhere on this blog), in other words I tried to discover the rules through first principle experimentation. In this way I learned quite a lot about fabric, fibre, cutting, fit and construction. This wasn't a plan or anything, just a kind of obvious and understandable drive to get all those variables corralled to raise the chances of successful outcomes.

By the time I supplemented my first principle learning with pattern drafting skills my success ratio, or at least the predictability of my outcomes, had radically increased. And this was one of the things I recall about sewing in this phase - my incredible confidence that I could start and complete a project in a fairly straightforward trajectory. My recent revisiting of a slew of garments from this phase attests to that. I am proud of the work I did then - the garments still hold up well in their fabric choice and execution.

And yet.

And yet, they are boring, uniform. It occurs to me that the learning and execution of the Rules is an exercise in taming fabric and while that clearly reduces waste and disappointment, it also diminishes excitement and unexpected moments of grandeur.

The jacket experience thrust me into a more experimental way of sewing precisely because the fabric itself did not conform to the rules. It was obvious from the start (witness me needing to completely re-cut all the pieces because of how mistaken I was about the way the fabric would work) that simply cutting out a pattern and sewing up wasn't going to work.

Now I'm not advocating abandonment of the Rules. The machine embroidered oatmeal skirt I sewed recently is a perfect example of the excellent and practical use of the Rules. Good basic and predictable fabric, good basic and predictable pattern plus a couple of hours creates a good basic and predictable (and high wearable!) garment. There's nothing wrong with this kind of sewing and on a feel good level it is definitely up there.

But what I tend to feel lacks for me as a home made clothes maker and wearer is that garment which defies immediate understanding. That thing which engages my mind on the wow, what is that? What is it made from, how is that collar attached, where is the seam?! The moments that are almost alchemical when fabric has been transformed into something a new - something now separate and greater than its origins. The garments which might, on a good day, be mistaken for the work of a designer but never for something mass produced.

So my point here is that the jacket, as study in this kind of departure, was a journey most certainly started by the fabric. I didn't picture that jacket and try to find either the fabric or the pattern for it. I found the fabric and then tried to work out what it wanted to be. I didn't try and tame it, I tried to work out how to make a garment that was simply a showcase for the fabric's unique properties.

And I think what was so magical was that the fabric took a while to make itself known to me, it was a little moment of courtship while we got to know each other and I worked out how to treat it. So I think I'll be trying a little harder int he next few sewing adventures to really think about what my materials are telling me and be more prepared to put the fabric first and the pattern second.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

the photos don't do it justice

Really, I think it looks way better in real life.Or maybe it's just that wearing it makes me feel so good.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009


OK, no photos. And I know this blog post would be so much better with some, but in another way it is kind of fitting that you can't see what I am talking about.

You see I just had to post straight away. I am so pleased with myself it is disgusting. The wool jacket I sewed feverishly between Monday and Tuesday in between chores and in nap times is really really good. I love it, and so does everyone else I've asked. Perhaps my tone made it clear what the only acceptable answer was, but still. I walked Wil to childcare this morning singing I'm too sexy for this pram, too sexy for this pram, the train and the tram...

If I had photos I am sure you would agree, but perhaps my point is better made unsullied by any adverse opinions you may have of the garment itself. There will be photos, but since I finished it at 9.30pm last night and am working until 7.30 tonight it will take at least a few days.

Anyway, here's my point. The jacket was a risk, a leap of faith. The fabric was expensive and precious and I was in love with it and scared to cut it. There was a lot of re-work in it as I first re-cut the fabric and then re-sewed several seams that just weren't right. All this was due to the very unique properties of the fabric and the ways it gave and yet didn't.

And also because aside from the very vague outlines of the front, back and sleeves, I wasn't using a pattern. Since the centre piece of the garment is the collar and that bit was totally made up, there was a lot of pinning and trying on and cutting and pinning again. For a while in the middle of it I was exhausted and I took some time out to look up hotels near the hospital for la la la fall back position and got all depressed. And then went back to it.

But the collar is perfect. Just exactly the right marriage of fabric and pattern, and it is flattering, practical and dramatic without being silly. Sigh. Such a sweet spot.

All last night I kept thinking about taking the leap. How many times I walked around the laid out fabric on Monday too scared to cut it and repeating to myself the little mantra of fabric in the cupboard is as much a waste as fabric in a garment that didn't work out. Knowing it might not work out and the suggested plan of simply edging it and making a wrap was much safer and perhaps better than a wing and a prayer.

But it wasn't. One of the joys, perhaps the joy of making your own clothes is not just the jacket that works. It is the chance to experience the thrill of risk taking, with no more than a piece of fabric at stake. Experimentation, trial, creativity and (very occasionally) triumph. You never know until you take the leap.

Monday, 18 May 2009

in the light

Things are good.

There's been presents. Oh how I love presents - especially the surprise kind. People's generosity astounds.
From good-ness. I've been feeling sad that you are leaving Japan. I'm sure your new adventures in Canada will be just as fascinating, but you know, Japan. And my credit card thanks you for no longer selling really cool fabric. I disagree and think the credit card is too uptight.
From traveller's yarn. She wasn't satisfied with just sending me the sock yarn I won on her blog, but slipped in an extra skein of undyed from her lovely shop, the Yarn Workshop. So I get to do some dyeing too. I am so lucky!
From Tessuti. It's the beginning of a love affair, I'm smitten. Thanks so much Colette and Lisa! I'm planning a nice summer skirt.

And it's very timely because I am really on a roll with the sewing and knitting right now. I am running off pieces from last week's purchases -
2 new shirts from the cotton/linen/spandex I bought at spotters end of bolt 30% off bonanza. A short sleeve darted number just waiting for work days in the Northern heat and another of these for work days down here in the cool. I also have plans for a pair of wide leg capris in this fabric too. The fabric sews up as nicely as I thought it would and demonstrates that inexpensive fabric doesn't have to be crap.

I've been working on another more complicated piece too - a jacket made from this totally amazing wool I got at Tessuti's. Right hand side is fabric on the table, left side is fabric with light shining through from behind - how cool is that?
It is a quite open weave with ridges of what looks like needle felting. The whole thing is really 3D and sculptural, at once light and airy and yet solidly lumpy and bumpy. I am basing the jacket on the darted shirt pattern without the darts and then making up a sort of pleated collar. I made good progress today - I hope Wil naps well tomorrow and lets me finish it off. It won't be lined or faced and I'm thinking wool binding and a single button closure.

There's also a piece of organic denim (organic! denim!) that is destined for some jeans some time soon, perhaps teamed with another pleat sleeve top in this white and grey stripe wool mix jersey. I think that would look great with my giant vanilla scarf.
That's nearly 600gms of over sized super soft merino and mulberry silk goodness. Or at least it was before I washed it and it totally lost it's unbelievably soft cloud like quality. I can't tell you how devastated I am. It's still nice, but no longer extraordinary.

I'm swatching for lace and the poll seems to agree with my gut instinct so I think I'll be going for Stonewall by Ann Hanson. That's going to be the next project I think.

The knitting pattern for the baby and child wrap is selling well, which is very exciting. If we weren't going away I'd be knitting another one for Wil - I've already thought of a whole different kind of front I'd like to try, and using a 12 ply yarn so it is really more a coat. But it will have to wait until next winter.

Because the other thing is that we have finally committed to going. We have tenants, I've applied for leave, I've told school and childcare. We have dates. Only thing we aren't really sure about is exactly where we're going. That's the bit where most people gasp and believe me I share their surprise that we'd put so many irreversible things in place without any firm plans for the destination part.

The thing is we just reached a point of realising that this is such a fantastic opportunity, and as the kids get older it only gets harder to rip ourselves out of our regular life and piss off for six months, so we have to take the leap of faith that something will turn up.

We are also now clear that Darwin is the ideal destination - it makes sense for David and me in terms of work - but we also have a back up plan to return to Thailand. Plan B has much to recommend it, and I have to say a part of me would really much rather be going back to Chiang Mai for about a hundred reasons (not even counting the ones about fabric shopping), but another part of me is also excited about Darwin.

So you know, win win. And feeling confident in the fall back position makes me a little more relaxed about not knowing.

I am a little less relaxed on the not knowing about the possibility of having surgery in a few weeks - in no small part because to solve the not knowing I have to submit to a totally gross and invasive diagnostic test that I can't even bring myself to write out in real words but which lasts for 24 whole hours. Let me just say D has suggested more than once that I go straight from hospital to a hotel for the night so I don't freak out the kids (or him let's get real here). If I am a candidate it may mean a big difference to my asthma, or not. But it would entail missing a three night craft weekend and I am really really not happy about that. Especially given how I feel about sewing right now. And being bedridden for two weeks and I find it really hard to imagine how the household might function without my labour.

Anyway I am doing my best not to think about it (eww), so let's pretend I never mentioned it. I'll let you know if I will be disappearing for a few weeks but until then, la la la la la la la...

I am well distracted by a very interesting article by Dr Sal Humphreys called, The challenges of intellectual property for users of social networking sites: a case study of Ravelry. Despite it's dry title and academic heart, there is some good food for thought for those who publish patterns and add their 2cents to debates about copyright and the ethics and morals of ownership and design. It is a fraught area with many strong feelings and it is quite nice to read about it in an unemotional context.

While I'm not really wanting to engage with the whole issue here, one of the points she raises is really interesting to me. She points out that one of the downsides of the massive proliferation of web based networks and distribution points is that pattern and design publishing no longer has a natural filtering process through publishing houses. With an ever diminishing distinction between professional and amateur designer and publisher, there is much knowledge and many practice standards which have been lost.

This leaves both designers and consumers exposed and vulnerable to a whole lot of problems, from quality control of patterns, misunderstandings of copyright protections, ignorance of conventions and professional codes of conduct, lack of customer support and poor price decisions.

Miss Pen Pen made a similar point in an article in the news paper recently about the proliferation of 'craft' goods for sale and the lack of quality control that has come with the greater access to the market. I've long thought about the difficulty the truly skilled 'master' crafters have in distinguishing themselves in the now very busy market place, and how the ability to price their goods appropriately is undermined by amateurs who sell their work for the cost of their materials plus a sliver more.

I have nothing significant to say about all that, just that these are complicated times and access for all has raised some interesting issues.

I think that's got to be it. It's bed time. I'm off to dream up some nice details for all those garments I'd be sewing if I didn't have other things to do. And saying silent prayers that the collar I'm going to be doing during tomorrow's nap time doesn't ruin my jacket.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

no one's safe

Uh oh.

I've heard more than one person comment that Melbourne has a far more vibrant and exciting craft/blog/textile scene than Sydney and I've had no grounds to challenge them, except maybe one. I've always wanted to visit Tessuti and felt very disappointed that Sydney had this one over us.

No more people, no more.

Conveniently located for a quick lunchtime visit on my city work days, the new store is totally fabulous. I popped in at lunch time today thinking I might catch Nikki. I didn't but I was so distracted by all the gorgeous loot that I wouldn't have been much good on the conversation front anyway.

Seriously, this place is dangerously good. Full up with designer ends in a superb range of colours, textures and fibres I was in sewing heaven. And the store is really nice too - very roomy and pleasant (in stark contrast to so many of my usual fabric haunts) and out of the hurly burly of the more heavily trafficked part of town. I might move in.

Aside from Cutting Edge over in Malvern, there isn't anywhere else that carries so much interesting and unusual gear, and already I suspect Tessuti will have an edge just because of its size and location. Certainly for me it will be a regular haunt. I won't kid you that the stuff is cheap, but it is special and there isn't enough special around if you ask me.

I have no doubt the store will succeed. So get on over and let them know we love and appreciate the purveyors of truly fine fabric - look at some stuff that will blow your mind and get you thinking about runway adventures.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

we have winners

we have winners, originally uploaded by Soozs.

Two assistants means two winners! Thanks to everyone who commented and there will be copies of the pattern emailing over to Annie now and Sue when she gets an email address to me. Happy knitting!

Friday, 8 May 2009

with thanks

a smile for Amy, originally uploaded by Soozs.

Thanks for all the nice comments and get well wishes. I am sure we will, as some stage, recover. As well as get sick again and recover again.

And it is very nice to know I am not the only parent who covers up the wet patch and puts a child back down. Very nice to know. I'm sure we're all on a list somewhere and one day there will be reckoning, but at least we can keep each other company on the road to hell.

But mostly those of you who commented specifically on my writing, I thank you. Like every blogger and writer I often wonder why the hell I'm writing stuff down. I feel incoherent, depressing, obvious, boring, clichéd, obscure, incomprehensible, insecure and self absorbed. And all before breakfast.

When you take the time to stop and say you appreciate me and the way I write and the things I write about I feel particularly chuffed and valued. I reply to so few comments these days because I'm a lazy cow and blogger really makes it much easier to not let me see your email than to see it, so I'm saying it here and I'm saying it loud.

Thanks dudes, you are all my sanity.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

from over here to over there

I am supposed to be at work today, and I was supposed to be at work yesterday. Instead I am wandering around the house wrapped up in scarves and wheat packs, coughing and wheezing. If I sit really still I can almost feel like I am getting better, but as soon as I do anything that requires the slightest physical exertion, or if I lie down, my lungs start drowning, my heart starts thumping and I am under no illusions.

I am at that depressive stage of my illness cycle.

A few weeks ago Wil got a cough that wouldn't go away and that led to several cough till you spew episodes. Totally delightful, especially at 2am. I confess that at least once in the darkest moments of the following weeks I simply picked him up out of the cot, laid a fluffy towel over the offending wet patch and put him back down.

So his cold was rumbling along and then D went away and the very next day Amy had an emotional outburst which screamed illness coming! And sure enough within a few hours she was vomiting fit to burst. The trouble is, with Amy you can never tell whether vomiting signals a stomach problem or something else, since a chuck is her standard response to any kind of problem. So I had my fingers crossed that it was just the cold coming on and we'd have a relatively peaceful night.

Instead we had the night from hell, starting at 9pm or so when Amy surrendered all control over bodily functions and I started changing sheets and PJs on an hourly basis between her fitful 30 minute naps. Of course mid her nap cycle Wil chose as his wake time, so for the next six or so hours I was up to one or other child every 20 or 30 minutes.

I used pretty much every sheet, doona cover, towel and PJ in the house, washed sick buckets, wiped noses, showered, filled water bottles and hung out washing and all on one of the coldest nights I can recall. Amy finally fell properly asleep at 3.30am and at 4.30am Wil declared it was morning time.

And at the first decent hour I rang David and hysterically told him I just couldn't do this parenting on my own thing anymore and that if I sounded a bit extreme it was because I had just been through an extreme experience - there were three loads of washing covered in shit still to do! - and now I was looking down the barrel of another day home alone with 2 sick kids - one still shooting from both ends at hourly intervals (and you know how I feel about vomit - it is not my thing!) - and I had no sleep at all and no end in sight and tomorrow I have to teach a 6 hour workshop and (cough) I can feel illness taking hold in me too.

I should be familiar with this cycle, I mean I am familiar with this cycle but it just doesn't make it any easier knowing it is just a cycle. The kids get sick, and I get no sleep, doubly so if D is away which is quite often. We all get stuck indoors together, sharing germs, eating poorly, getting on each others nerves, not sleeping and getting crankier.

Then I get sick, which completely undermines any coping skills I do have, and means I can't go to work which depresses me enormously. I know, there was a time I used to love a sickie too, but these days I love to get to work and when you work two days a week it doesn't take much sickness and you're missing whole weeks.

Then we do the rounds of doctors visits (which is particularly fun if D isn't around because it means taxis and strapping a thrashing 2 year old to me in a car safe pouch) for whoever hasn't managed to recover on their own, which is usually at least me since I no longer produce a particular kind of immunity that gets me past anything associated with my respiratory tract, and that means drugs. And then we start to recover (I'm the slowest out of all of us of course) and then just as I can taste the beginning of the end I get asthma.

So today as I was determining that I would most definitely make it to work, and got up and ventolined by lungs inside and out and showered and put on fancy duds and make up and all, I only made it as far as the tram stop before I knew I couldn't go any further. Despite my steely resolve, and the pull of a really fantastic training course I was booked to start today (having pulled out last year due to illness), there was really no way that pushing myself was going to work.

The thing I am learning about asthma is that it is kind of like a kid with a tantrum. You can't fight it, or reason with it or force it into submission. Restoring order takes time and patience and calm. A time just sitting and being with the frustration and anger and sadness of the injustice of it all. Waiting for things to settle in their own good time, for the tightness to ease, for things to open up and start working again.

Yesterday as I could feel the asthma creeping in as the fever of the cold was subsiding I was thinking about a line I read recently about motherhood. I read it in a article, but I think it was actually a quote from somewhere else and I kept the article but I can't find it now. The author wrote that she had imagined when she fell pregnant that motherhood would be like being a foreign correspondent, sending dispatches home. But on becoming a mother she realised that motherhood had become home and everywhere else was now a foreign place.

I was so struck when I read this by how closely it resembled my expectations and then experiences of becoming a mother, about how instantly and completely everything had changed because I had changed. No one could share the experience from over there any more than I could fully comprehend the experiences of people who had lost a child or been addicted to gambling or won a million dollars, people who resided in other foreign lands.

With those words in my head I sometimes look back on the PC days - the pre children days - and they do seem deeply foreign to me. Sometimes, on bad days, I feel keenly the impossibility of ever returning and the foolishness of my own insularity when I lived there.

But yesterday I was thinking about how illness, particularly recurrent and chronic illness has the same transportive qualities, only worse since you neither chose to come nor get any upside to being there. The land of good health is now the far off shore, the place where other people live and the gulf is so much wider and more impassable than you ever understood before. The compound effects of illness so quickly stack up that even where the physical ailment leaves you with some capacity, it is hard to release yourself from the feelings of fear and loneliness and frustration.

So today I am here with my tantruming lungs, doing my best to sing them a lullaby of happy music and talk them down off the ledge so together we can return to the place we used to live. I am trying hard not to think about all the things I would rather be doing, or the things I really need to be doing, and thus trying to hurry things along prematurely.

Also and less depressingly my mind is somewhat preoccupied with the many scenarios which constitute the possibilities for our sabbatical trip. You may recall our original plan was to move to Darwin for the second half of this year, and you may also recall a few lines here about the difficulty we've had with finding both a tenant for our house and a place to stay in Darwin. As the time to depart gets closer these things do not appear to be falling into place as we'd hoped.


So we have been forced into exploring a few other possibilities, changing dates, possibly changing destinations, radically changing the deal around work and childcare and other projects. And I won't complain about this - really I know and genuinely feel very fortunate to be able to contemplate another great big adventure - but it is proving to be very confusing for me.

Where do I really want to go? As long as it is warm we really could go pretty much anywhere, so is Darwin,or anywhere in Australia the right place? But if we go somewhere other than Australia that probably cuts out me working in anything like my current day job, but might that be a good thing? Could I find some other kind of project that could develop me professionally, or earn me a little money doing something remotely? And what about the kids? What kind of school/childcare configuration could work and how would we deal with getting a place/cost/location and transport issues and what if the kids didn't like it?

All this makes me reflect that my decision making behaviour is clearly divided into two streams - either fairly linear or jump off the cliff style. I like a straightforward set of variables that I can contemplate, research and decide or to grab some kind of unknown but predetermined set of options that just present themselves as a going concern. The big leaps I have made have been just that - come here! do this! - and I did. India on my own as a young lass. No idea, just went. Thailand as a depressed young mum. Nothing to lose.

But this one is the 'time to buy a new camera' decision only much much bigger. There are almost no concrete parameters, but endless options, a thousand opinions, lots of pitfalls, and not nearly enough real information. I feel like I have no basis for assessing any of the possibilities and all the variables seem interdependent and yet entirely unstable. So I am spending my days down the rabbit holes of international schools, visa conditions, correspondence courses, childcare centres, real estate agents and the occasional day dream about writing a book or eating smashed catfish salad whilst on the banks of a lush river...

So forgive me if I seem a little scattered and self absorbed, well more so than usual. Truth is, I have absolutely no idea what's gong to happen next.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

for the love of Charlie

I know our household is not alone in loving Charlie and Lola. We are avid watchers when it is on the TV, we have some of the books and Amy has been known to spend some quality time on the Charlie and Lola fun and games website playing dress ups and painting butterflies.

And I love the way the characters dress - particularly Charlie with his raglan sleeve tops and jumpers in contrast colours. I've always loved the raglan construction.

So when I was test knitting the new pattern in the biggest size I decided to try out the Charlie colour style. While I do like the orange and red combo he wears the best, I didn't happen to have those colours on hand so I went with the blue and green instead. I think these are really better suited to Wil anyway.

And I must say, I am mighty pleased! Aside from the logistics of keeping all 5 sets of yarn balls from getting confused while I was doing the yoke, and remembering to wrap the colours at each change so I didn't get holes, it was a breeze to knit. And the size is perfect for Wil. He's a pretty skinny little lad at 27 months, so even in the 24 month size he could do to have the torso a bit slimmer - I think if I was doing it for him again I might leave a few stitches out of the back section.

I think the popper tape works really well and seems to be sturdy enough for even Wil's shenanigans.

And since I'm so pleased, and because 4 people bought the new pattern within hours of me uploading it (!), I'm going to celebrate by giving away a free copy of the pattern. Just leave a comment here in the next week and I'll be drawing a random number with the help of my young assistants. Make sure you leave your email address - and please only go in the drawer if you intend to knit it.

Monday, 4 May 2009

new pattern

new pattern, originally uploaded by Soozs.

So I just wanted to let you know I am releasing a new pattern! Modelled here by my gorgeous neighbour Amelia, this is the seamless baby and toddler wrap with collar.

I've developed this new pattern because I really wanted a quick knit that was practical to wear and fun to make, and didn't have all those bulky stiff seams. I am a huge fan of the neck down raglan construction technique and once you've made one they are quite addictive! They come out fast and have no seams to sew in afterwards.

This version is the smallest size in the pattern, ideally made for the 0-6 month age group, though Amelia here is 7 months old and on the 97th percentile, so it's a bit tighter on her than it would normally be! The pattern also has 6-12 month and 12-24 month sizes, as well as tips on how to change pattern for size and shape. The sizing is generous, and larger size fits Wil very well at 27 months.

I knitted samples in double strand 4 and 5 ply weights, but the pattern is equally well suited to 10 ply, or aran weights without requiring any alterations. Quite unlike me, I managed to rope a few others into test knitting the pattern, and since they used all manner of yarn weights and gauges I am confident it is a pretty robust pattern and suitable to fairly new knitters and good for stash busting.

I have loaded the pattern for Ravelry download but if you aren't a Raveler you can just email me soozs[dot]com[at]gmail[dot]com. I decided to charge for the pattern because as someone said to, never undervalue your creative work, but at $6 aussie it isn't much.

You can find the pattern here on Ravelry.

Friday, 1 May 2009

it's easy

I get a lot of stick from people when I tell them something I did was easy. Easy for you, is a common retort.

But when I say easy, I mean easy.

I don't mean, I turned my back and it just happened like magic. Nor do I necessarily mean it is something a blind monkey could do without the use of its good arm. But neither did I mean easy for someone used to professional level production in their chosen field.

But I do mean it was something that with basic skills in the area required little care.

Take the sewing of a skirt for example. It might be easy, or easy but tedious, or easy but fiddly, or actually quite difficult, or a total bitch, or, you know, forget it. There is a scale.

The skirt I made last weekend which has been much admired (mostly by me) was pretty easy. No complicated pieces to fit together, no fussy finishes, no lining even if you use the right fabric. It did have a zip, and I guess for some people that's hard (though I tell you - get at invisible zipper foot for your machine and for a very small investment a zipper will never freak you out again), but that's it for anything beyond the total basics.

The grey version did have lining, but that wasn't any harder, just a bit more sewing (I put that in the tedious basket). And the machine embroidery was similarly easy if a little tedious - round and round I went with the machine chug chug chugging. I deliberately chose the overlay of lines to remove the need for any kind of precision.

And I feel I can call it easy because I have made hard stuff. Fully faced, lined and tailored suits with welt pockets and covered and faced button holes, things with structure and engineering as well as fancy and mind bending complicated finishes and flourishes.

Some of those things require real skill, but quite a lot of them simply require time and persistence. A preparedness to unpick a dodgy sleeve ease, to sew a little more slowly while you poke and prod and stretch and manipulate piece together. a preparedness to try it on a few times to check fit and adjust it where needed.

There isn't much I sew these days that goes past the easy category, sometimes a little tedious (a bit more sewing, more embellishment to conceal the plainness of the garment or the crappy joins) and sometimes a little fiddly (like the collar on that black and white shirt from last weekend which wasn't hard but which could have looked bad if a little crooked or such).

So when people say they like something I made I often say it was easy. I'm not saying everyone should do all the things I do, but I do like to challenge people who feel they can't do something I have done. With the right materials and tools and good pattern selection most of the kinds of projects I do are totally achievable for even very beginners.

In fact while we were sewing last weekend there were a few conversations about exactly that - our self defeating beliefs about what we can do, and recognising the difference between the choice not to do something and our inability to do it. It's fine to decide you can't be fagged to knit socks, but there isn't anything about knitting socks that's so complicated that pretty much anyone couldn't learn how to do it should they choose.

I hold great respect for people who tackle really hard stuff - professional millinery, shoe making, silver smithing and so on, or who become astonishingly accomplished at anything (they are genuine artisans and craftspeople in the old fashioned sense of the word) and I do not compare myself to them. I am a garden variety crafter and happily so most of the time.

So I admire people who set out to learn new things, who take up quilting or spinning or knitting socks when they used to have no idea. Who make the time and the space and gather the will to do something new, even when it is something that's easy, or when their made objects are wonky and unpolished. I admire them not because of their specialist skills or perfect products but just because they did it.