Wednesday, 28 April 2010

amy's kitchener in rib instructions

[This post gives instructions on grafting rib together using kitchener stitch and reverse kitchener stitch and is lifted from Knitty help forum here. I encourage you to go read the original post in full, I am simply copying it in case it gets taken down and I lose this precious resource!]

First, you should know that the only way you'll have perfection with this, is if you're grafting the top of knitting to the bottom of knitting. (That is, if you've exposed live stitches on the bottom edge somehow, for instance with a provisional cast-on, or by cutting out a row of stitches and exposing the work that way.) If you're grafting two tops together in ribbing, they'll be shifted 1/2 stitch relative to each other, and you'll see that the virtical grain of the ribbing doesn't match up, so it won't be perfect. In that case, just follow the instructions in the first quote, and ignore the rest of my specifications, which are about achieving a perfectly seamless join.

Perfection on this can be complicated, so be warned! I've found this to be challenging and fussy myself. In figuring this out, I had to actually break the rules I read in a book, and change the pattern for it to work out. The book didn't address certain factors, so I was left to my own devices, and I only add my ammendments here because they can be paired with the additional information that is needed to go forth with confidence. Perhaps some brilliant person can work out how to follow her instructions as they are, and achieve perfection (anyone? I'd be grateful!), but in the mean time, I'll tell you my alterations. So I'm first going to quote the book in it's integrity, assuming she's the expert in it, and then quote it again, adding my modifications which I found I needed to make it work.

The quote is from the Principals of Knitting. "Near" refers to the knitting needle closest to you, "Far" is the other needle. Watch my kitchener video if you haven't already. It's a bit confusing at first, but similar enough to how I explain it in the video, that hopefully the instructions are clear. I like her original instructions, because basically, you're doing plain kitchener stitch on the knit stitches, and reversing them for purl stitches.


...Here we must have eight steps: one for each needle when the two stitches to be worked on are both knit; a pair for when they are a knit stitch, then a purl stitch; a pair for when they are both purl; and a pair for when they are a purl stitch, then a knit stitch. I will assume that the Double Rib sequence starts with a pair of Knit stitches.

Preliminary step: Near/Purl, far/Knit (same as usual)

1. Near on two Knit: Knit/drop, Purl

2. Far on two knit: Purl/drop, Knit

3. Near on one Knit, one Purl: Knit/drop, knit

4. Far on one Knit, one Purl: Purl/drop, purl

5. Near on two Purl: Purl/drop, Knit

6. Far on two Purl: knit/drop, Purl

7. Near on one Purl, On knit: Purl/drop, Purl

8. Far on one Purl, one Knit: Knit/drop, Knit

The missing info, was that when you're including the "bottom" of work (live stitches exposed on the bottom of knitting), the stitches you put on the needle from the ribbing are actually the strands between the original stitches, and are offset by 1/2 stitch. (It fixes itself once you've grafted, but it's confusing at this stage!) So, holding these exposed bottom stitches above the exposed top stitches of the piece your grafting to, you have to then decide whether you need to shift the top piece to the left or right relative to the bottom piece before beginning. I found it necessary to shift to the right, so that the first stitch you're working of the exposed bottom stitches, is actually the strand between the two knit stitches. These stitches are used as the ones on the far needle. I had to alter the pattern in two places to make it work, but then it worked perfectly:


(my alterations are in red)

Preliminary step: Near/Purl, far/Knit (same as usual)

1. Near on two Knit: Knit/drop, Purl

2. Far on two knit: Purl/drop, Knit

3. Near on one Knit, one Purl: Knit/drop, knit

4. Far on one Knit, one Purl: Knit/drop, purl

5. Near on two Purl: Purl/drop, Knit

6. Far on two Purl: knit/drop, Purl

7. Near on one Purl, On knit: Purl/drop, Purl

8. Far on one Purl, one Knit: Purl/drop, Knit

Sorry I can't give you an easier answer on this one!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

alls well that ends well

I foolishly made the claim just a few days ago that one of the reasons I enjoy dyeing is that I am not too particular about where the process leads me. Good advice if I actually followed it all the time.

My gift and curse here is that my sense of colour is crap. Along with drawing, it's my major crafty weakness and I often rely on the judgements of others, particularly when I am out of my colour familiars. The good bit about that is that I can be happy with a dye outcome because I don't have rigid ideas about good and bad colours. The bad bit is that setting out to seek the 'perfect' colour or shade is like a blindfolded tightrope walk, I have absolutely no tools or skills in navigating the colour spectrum.

So the problem is that when you are heading into a full size adult garment armed with the knowledge that such pieces are relatively rare and considerable investments, the knitting becomes considerably more angst ridden. The pattern, the yarn, the colour. The desire to make something you are confident will turn out, fit well, look great, get a lot of use, be stunning and a many boxes to tick!

I was dyeing for the perfect red. So the tomato yarn became burgundy yarn became gothic purple yarn and now that it's all dried it's become a rather appealing mix of darkest aubergine with warm red highlights, purple undertones and inferences of black. I don't think the colours in the picture are exactly spot on (if anyone knows the secret to better colour capture do please let on), but I'm guessing once knit it will look different yet again anyway. The process of drying alone has seriously transformed it already.

The bottom line to it all is that it took a long time and rather a lot of dye and swearing to get here, and here is not where I was heading, but I find it quite agreeable now that I am indeed here.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

so this is how it started

After the sewing marathon I set to some knitting.

I finished the skew socks.

Lovely pattern, great socks to wear, interesting to knit (although next time I'll do the modifications suggested by the designer on her blog to add a little more wriggle room for getting them on).

Then I did the calculations and realised there was only a few hours left on the endless sister scarf.

A very low level anxiety started somewhere in the back of my mind.

I wrote this post asking for suggestions for the next project, received lots of helpful and speedy replies and settled on tea leaves. I ordered dye for my posmerino stash and broke out the extra postage for express delivery so I'd be able to dye while Wil slept on Wednesday and cast on Thursday or Friday. That my preferred dye colour was out of stock and I had to settle on another which would almost certainly require mixing didn't daunt me in the slightest, though in retrospect it should have.

Because then things started going wrong.

The dye didn't arrive and the anxiety ratcheted up a notch. I pulled out my big bag of cashmere samples thinking I'd knock up a quick neck warmer or something just to keep me going. I wound skeins, dyed a couple of little ones, balled them up but things weren't gelling.

Thursday I spent with Kate who was visiting from Adelaide and we'd planned a we tour of shops and places for the purchase of fabric. Somehow I veered from the path and our first stop was the handweavers and spinners guild were a thousand eminently immediate single skein projects were jumping off the shelves at me. It's all very reasonably priced and made by hand! How could I not?
So I grabbed a skein of super chunky neckwarmer making yarn and got back on the planned road.

We popped into Rathdowne Remnants and then the A1 Bakery to get supplies for morning tea with the busy printers. Suitably sustained we headed over to Fitzroy to visit Clear It, which apparently I am supposed to keep secret so no one else buys all their good stuff but ha, as if.
We'd planned to have a quick peruse here, go two doors up the the new Fabric Store, have a bit of a wander and then head home to get Amy.
Almost 2 hours later I staggered out, dazzled by the sun and fresh air, dying of thirst, dashed 2 doors up, spent approximately 20 seconds in the Fabric store and made a mad rush to get home fast enough to pick up Amy.

So while I am not the romantic frou frou kind and even if I was Alannah Hill doesn't make things in my size (and I seem to recall an old interview with her when she said something akin to all fat people are disgusting) but I must say she buys some pretty stunning fabric and when she decides she doesn't want it after all she sells is shockingly cheaply.

I bought some pink things and things with sequins and things that matched and with matching trims and I had visions of running home and sewing myself a silk shirt like this or with a pussy bow (to wear with a pencil skirt, patterned stockings and perhaps, gulp, heels (like I even own any)).

Can you tell I wasn't feeling quite myself? That somewhere in the background the looming no project anxiety was turning me all funny?

We finally got home, exhausted and sweaty and then promptly all had to go out for ice cream to recover.

After dinner I searched all through ravelry for a suitable pattern for my neckwarmer, decided on this, cast on and started to knit.

And then decided my yarn looks awful in garter stitch and is wrong for this pattern and that really I like the pattern more than the yarn. So I went to bed and dreamed dark bad dreams.

And then Friday morning dawned and I heard the postman and thought thank god, the dye is here. Only it wasn't. So I rang Australia Post because by now I was feeling beyond a little anxious and was downright cranky that the guaranteed overnight deliver premium was a total waste and goddamitsomeonewasgoingtosharemypain.

After 200 hours on hold I had the worlds most frustrating conversation with someone who seemed to keep getting mixed about whether I had sent the parcel, was waiting to receive the parcel, had already received the parcel, whether the parcel had been received by someone else, whether the parcel had ever been sent or indeed ever existed. For the sake of my mental health I had to hang up and deep breathe.

Finally the parcel turned up but the carefully boxed contents had been crushed and one of the dye bags had been sliced open so I opened the package to be showered in toxic staining black dye. Which of course I had to clean up immediately, since loose black dye on one's kitchen floor is kind of unsustainable, only to be told by Australia post that if I wanted to lodge a complaint I had to bring the damaged parcel in as evidence. Needless to say I will not be making a complaint (except this one here of course).

I immediately started the dye process, 2 skeins at a time (that's 5 batches of 200gms of wool each). And the first lot came out too orange. So I added a bit of a deep plum in to the dyebath, reasoning that it was more red plus a little bit of blue which would make it less orange. I altered the contents of each of the other dye lots to match and went on dyeing them with gay abandon. I had a growing suspicion, which I was doing a marvellous job of suppressing, that the colour wasn't quite right, but until the yarn was properly rinsed and dried I couldn't know for sure and no matter what I would need to skeins to all match so there was no point in stopping now.

My main strategy for managing the growing anxiety was to get to work on the refashion pile while the skeins were on simmer. After the great pants refit work over the last month or so it was becoming increasingly obvious I needed to do a similar blitz on my skirts. A bit big, a bit long and rather boring, I had dumped quite a few in the work room after they had been rejected during the morning get ready for work routine. I had already dyed the oatmeal coloured denim skirt to great effect and worked on the black eyelet linen skirt from 2007, but I had a few more tweaks to finish it off. I also had to adjust the floral linen skirt again because it wasn't quite right last time.

Most of the work went into the grey and black lined linen skirt I made in 2009. I took it in and shortened by quite a lot and then added a gathered detail on the side hems to make it a bit more interesting. D says it makes the skirt looks like bloomers (and not in a good way) but I like it, and think it will look great with black leggings and boots for winter work wear.

I then did a quick refashion on this top, which I made in 2008. I was very disappointed that the very expensive lovely soft tencel fabric stretched enormously and pilled quite a lot. I had to take it in a whole lot, add a seam in back and made a feature of pin tucks over the front to give it more structure. It's still not great but a lot better than it was.

Now it's Saturday and the yarn is dry and I can't deny that the colour is not what I had hoped for.
The word that comes quickest to mind is burgundy, and that's a colour I left behind many years ago. D thinks I should overdye the lot black and then start again with real red (the one that was out of stock) for my next project. I would indeed use a black cardigan, and it would be way better to have a good black cardigan than a burgundy cardigan I never really liked, but you know, it just wasn't what I had in mind, it feels like such a boring cop out. Plus I so can't be bothered doing a whole day dyeing again, and risk felting with all this rework. Should I ball up a skein and see how it knits or am I just delaying the inevitable? What is a good red anyway? What the hell do I know??

Perhaps I'll go start on that pussy bow...because I'm not sure how much more project limbo we can take.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

tea towels all done and dusted

So the tea towel swap is finished and I have to say it was excellent. All mine were received with great joy - I love every single one!! Thank you swap partners!!

Everyone should have received everything by now so if you missing anything please let me know and I will chase it up with partners. I don't like shirkers.

I have already started planning another swap - it's another practical, useful one, with clear guidelines and yet scope for creativity, and it's also green. I'll post about it soon, I hope you'll all join in.

Thanks for taking part in this one, it was a ripper.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

you are so impressive

Wow, service and speed - what more could I ask for? Thank you so much for the suggestions and links and for recognising that for me, waiting and contemplating are quite out of the question.

I think I have settled on tea leaves, but I did spend quite some time contemplating a range of others. I love the february lady sweater, when it was first released I obsessed over it for quite some time and stalked appropriate yarns and watched the project gallery with great interest. But I just can't see it looking good on me. I think that wide flat yoke can stretch on forever on a larger bust, and not in a good way.

So I ordered some more red dye yesterday and pulled out my posmerino stash to air and fluff up before it hits the dye pot and as soon as the dye hits the door step, I'll be doing the dye thing. I'm not convinced I can reach a good shade of red because the posmerino is not white but a natural light grey, so I may have to switch to plan B and have grey cardigan. I'll certainly be doing some test swatches I can tell you.

Anyway, thanks again. I have certainly got a list of other knits I want to do now (and Kim, they don't include a snuggy!), but I'm dead excited about this one!

Edited to add -

To answer Frog's question and anyone else who is interested, some notes about dyeing. I dye yarn using a couple of different methods and a couple of different products. Food colour dyeing (where you use vinegar and heat to set the dye) is great, non toxic and fun. It's not great for large quantities or certain colour ranges and once (but only once in the many many times I've done it) it has failed to become colour fast. It's great for variegated colours and sock yarn (like this). I also dye using hot water wool dyes (sold as different brand manes in different places but I use landscape dyes and gaywool brands).

I 'handpaint' yarns - where you lay out a skein and apply the dye directly to the wool to create stripes or variations using different colours (like this) - and I 'kettle dye' yarns where I add skeins of yarn to a prepared pot of dye. Kettle dyeing can be used to get variations in intensity of a single colour (as yarnies would be familiar with for yarns like Malabrigo or like I did here) or to randomly mix different colours by adding them to different sides of the same pot and not stirring (also called space dyeing I think an example can be seen here).

I am by no means a master dyer, and my personal approach of not being too specific about what I want helps. A lot of people who have a clear vision of what they want are disappointed by the sometimes unpredictable way in which dyes take to yarns and if you want a lot of control I think you need to practice and be much more precise than me. But if you are open to the results being only vaguely in your ball park, then dyeing is easy, fun and makes good quality yarn much more affordable!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

suggestions please

I'm all sewn out* so it's no surprise it's time for a little knitting obsession. There's one more round and the bind off before the skew socks will be done and I'm more than half way through the couch knitting project so I'm scrambling for what I can cast on next.

This is what I know about the next project.
  1. It will be for me.
  2. It will keep me warm and it will be soft and comfortable.
  3. It will be knitted from my stash of posmerino that I will dye when the project is selected (tomorrow?). It will ideally be DK/8ply weight (although it could be a 10 ply/worsted if the pattern is right since I stashed both).
  4. It will probably be a cardigan, something that can be worn with just the buttons over the bust done up.
  5. I hope it will be knit from the neck down raglan all in one piece style.
  6. It will be flattering to a bigger busted bigger bellied bigger bottomed girl so it will be shaped and fitted without a lot of ease.
  7. It will not be boring and it may have some kind of feature at the neck - a collar perhaps - to draw attention to my delightfully pretty face.
  8. It will quite possibly be red.
  9. It may have been modified from the original pattern, but it will start off as a pattern I can get my hands on via the internet or through my current collection of magazines (IK, Yarn) and books (custom knits, big girl knits, weekend knitting, knitting without tears, the knitters almanac) or some other method close at hand.
So far I have been looking at this, this, this, this, this, this (manu the top one), this, this, this, this, this, this, and about 100 others and getting inspiration aplenty, but answers not at all.

So I open the door to your opinions, recommendations, votes and general wisdom on patterns and styles and brilliant ideas about what might suit me. I thank you in advance.

*I'm not counting a very cute hat in the current edition of Ottobre that came through the mail slot last night. Tis but a trifle.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

limping home

I think we may finally be reaching the end of the longest and most productive sewing jag ever. While there's always more things to make, and always more fabric with which to do the making I have reached the end of my stuff we really need right now list.

Since I last posted I finished D's winter coat - though of course every day since has been delightfully warm so there hasn't been any live modelling. I am very very pleased with this one. A fairly substantial effort since I started out with a kid sized pattern and upscaled it and was under the kind of pressure that one experiences when making something handmade for someone of very particular taste.

Not to mention all the standard risks and pitfalls that come with making a fully lined wool coat with welt pockets using fabric with nap, and using genuine inherited kick arse vintage silk for lining.

There were quite a few diversions and indecisions and moments of panic and uncertainty (the PJs from the last post were in fact a temporary respite designed to boost my confidence when it was lagging).

But finally it was finished and it fits and the man appears to like it (and perhaps feel at last like he gets something from all the craftiness. Though he did also note a general decline in domestic standards during the period. Ahem).

After the coat I made this very quick little dress for Amy, another pattern from Happy Handmade vol 2. Amy is particularly fond of the long sleeve T shirt, leggings and dress combo for winter dressing so when I spied the eyelet wool jersey at Rathdowne Remnants in her current favourite colour I knew straight away what I would do with it.

I was a bit concerned that the wool was very light and soft and the neck and sleeve edges would be difficult to give adequate structure and a nice finish so I decided to do the yokes and sleeves double thickness and do turned bagged hems for both. I am very very pleased with the finish this gave them - both in terms of structure and look.

The jersey was hard to sew being so light and stretchy, so I also did a binding along the bottom hem. This one should see a fair bit of use. The fabric was also surprisingly wide, so there's enough left over from a meter for a wrap or cardi of some kind somewhere down the track.

And lastly a pair of lined jersey pants for Wil. Once a week the lad plays hippy and does dance class - jeans positively not allowed (a blanket rule made by people who don't sew and don't get what really restricts movement in terms of construction and fabric but anyway...). When the cooler weather set in I realised that all the pants Wil had that 'allowed free movement' were not great at keeping him warm so I pulled a couple of stash items out and put them together.

The outer is a quite coarse cotton jersey I've had for yonks that I dyed grey from unbleached natural, the inner is some very soft and light organic cotton/elastine from Tessuti in Tsar colour (thanks Colette!!). I made them a little long to allow for growth and a peak of the brilliant blue inside when the cuff is rolled up.

Of course because they are for Wil they had to feature some wheel action or there would be tears and cussing in the morning when it is time to get dressed. And I put some back pockets on just to make them look a little less like trakky daks.

So now I think everyone has jeans and leggings and comfy pants and long sleeve T shirts and tops and coats and skirts and dressed and hats and PJs and I think that means I can rest up a bit and think about some things for me, some things for fun, some things at leisure.

There's been an awful lot of sewing in the last 16 days and I have enjoyed it immensely. In no small part it has been because I have been meeting real needs (both practical and perhaps emotional with things like Amy's party skirt) and it occurs to me that all this is the reality of my decision to stop buying clothes. With kids so much more than myself, the need for new clothes can sneak up and bear down - last year's (or indeed the year's before) sometimes just absolutely won't do when there's a sudden cold spell and the coat doesn't do up any more or the jeans are now capris. When it comes to my clothes it's so much easier to take the vow to not buy when the alternative is pretty much always simply going on with what I already have - perhaps not exciting, perhaps a little shabby, but undoubtedly good enough. But I have seen first hand that not buying is a real commitment to make the time to provide for children's growing bodies and the changing seasons.

So making it through this first and quite substantial test has been very gratifying. I have sewn at night when I may otherwise have watched TV, while the pasta has been boiling, when the kids were eating wheatbix, I have sewn to the exclusion of other pastimes and (D would say) I have sewn at the expense at least in part of other domestic obligations. But having said that we have not fallen completely to the gutter, I dare say we have eaten less take away than we sometimes do and all this has happened in my monthly teaching week when work commitments are at their peak.

It has also gotten me thinking about getting into some seasonal clothing planning - for the kids as well as me. If I am going to keep pace with our family needs I would do well to anticipate our needs and be working to meet them in a more systematic way. Some much smarter people have probably be doing this all their lives, I definitely think this was a language from my childhood, but getting a proper sense of what is needed on a yearly basis is important not just for ensuring you don't have to spend three weeks solid sewing at the change of seasons, but also avoiding spending all one's sewing time making garments that aren't really needed. Something I am absolutely guilty of!

Lots to be learned, but happily so. But now, I'm off to watch some TV for a pleasant change.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

sleepy time

PJs for two

courtesy of the stash (remnants from cot pillow cases and baby wraps and snugglies)
and happy handmade vol 2 (both pants and her top)

and ottobre (his top - same as the one in this post minus the extra short sleeves)
Sweet dreams.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

learning to sew (or expect these problems plus more)

I was chatting with a friend the other day and the conversation went the same way as these things often do when we started talking about making clothes.

I really want to but I can't get going. I want to make things I'm not really skilled enough to make so I get really frustrated. I wish I could do what you do.

I always want to respond that it isn't that hard, but the truth is that learning to sew is hard, it just doesn't seem hard to me because I've already learned a lot and it's easier for me to recognise and put up with the frustration of learning new bits. There's no doubt my already won skills help me through those new skill hard bits faster and easier, but over time I have also adjusted my expectations and I tend to think this is the critical bit for learning.

All this thinking started a little list in my head about the critical lessons for me as I've learnt to sew.
  1. Anything new you do requires you to learn something and learning is rarely painless. Whether it's coping with confusion, making and fixing mistakes, feeling overwhelmed, getting a poor finish, getting exhausted...these are all symptoms of learning. They are normal and they pass. The payoff makes the temporary pain worth while, and it does get easier.
  2. Learning to sew isn't a single unified set of skills that come as a package. Effective use of a sewing machine, choosing fabrics, interpreting patterns, fitting garments, manipulating fabric for construction and professional finishing are all quite separate skills. It isn't a learn one get the rest free system! Don't try and tackle them all at once and be OK about not knowing lots (in fact the more you learn the more you realise there is out there yet to be learned...).
  3. Most frustrations come from choosing inappropriate projects. By inappropriate I mean not what you want at a particular time. A hunger to achieve an output, a desire for speed and no bumps in the road call for a simple project using already practised skills. A thirst for a challenge, some extra time and no pressure mean a more complicated project can make it onto the table. Take the time to try and get in touch with what you really want and save yourself the heartache.
  4. Mistakes, rework, poor decisions and wrong turns are not a waste of time. Everything you do - whether it gives you a pleasing result or extra fodder for the rag bag - teaches you how to do something, or how not to do something. Mistakes, and picking up the pieces afterwards most definitely make your sewing skills more robust and versatile than simply learning by numbers.
  5. There is no singular 'right' way to do things. Conventions and techniques tell you a lot about what most people think will work most of the time and generally give you a good result, but there are always exceptions and often more than one way to achieve the same end. Never let an orthodoxy stand in the way of progress - if it really is the very best way, you'll come to it in your own time.
  6. The process of learning is ongoing. It's important not to see every project as the judgement of your capacities, and expect everything to be exactly right. When it comes to clothes you buy, for example, you rarely pick up a garment in a store and feel it is perfect in every way and it's the same with the things you make. Learning to celebrate the bits that go right, rather than fret over the bits that went wrong will motivate you and help you get closer to the outcome you are hoping for. There's always next time.
  7. Good tools and materials count for a lot. That's not to say everyone needs the flashest machine (indeed mine is the bottom of the range domestic!) or the most expensive fabric and there is absolutely a place for cheapies and experiments, but quality makes things easier. This is especially true if you are working on something really complicated or using fabric that's notoriously hard to sew. Buy the best you can afford and if it seems expensive, compare it to what you would be paying for a finished item. Making it yourself really is better value. If cost is a major issue consider reusing good quality thrifted fabric or repurposing something rather than trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
  8. There is a world of difference between good enough and really good. You can spend days sewing a finely tailored well fitting summer dress, or a few hours knocking out a sundress and while we may desire both in our wardrobe don't think that you will get couture for the time and cost of the chain store version. What counts is understanding the difference between them and choosing the project you really want and are really interested in making. There is no shame in skipping the couture for low rent projects and saving your pennies for bought high end items. Being able to throw together PJs for your kids or calico market bags is still a creative and thrilling venture and requires a lot less of an investment in skill development. By the same token heading straight for the really hard stuff is fine so long as you are realistic about the degree of difficulty and have the patience to hike up a very steep learning curve.
  9. Skills are maintained and improved through practice. These days I need not the slightest encouragement to seize any opportunity to sew, but in the past I have gone for long stretches without sewing. The longer the gap the harder it is to feel confident to tackle a new project.
  10. Get back on the horse (closely related to the above). Disasters of even monumental proportions do not dictate the end of a sewing career, but failure can loom larger than it needs to when left to fester. The best cure for failure is success so a simple and fast project with a very high likelihood of success is the best way to dispel the sewing mozz.
  11. There is no substitute for real people. There are a lot of great books, blogs and videos out there and they can all teach you a lot, but nothing will push you along faster than being able to ask someone for help and letting them show you what they mean. Classes can be expensive but they are absolutely invaluable, and communities you join or create let you get and give help in a way that solidifies what you know and teaches you more. The old fashioned sewing circle and its many modern guises also add a social side to the 'work' of sewing that really tips the balance in favour of wanting more.
  12. Following a pattern to the letter removes a lot of decision making and figuring stuff out, which makes things faster and in some ways easier. But when a pattern isn't exactly what you want, or doesn't make intuitive sense, depart from it. [It astonishes me how often students or friends will fuss for hours trying to work out exactly what the pattern means rather than just trying out what they think. When I say why don't you just do X they say can I? Like they need permission!] And every now and then just for the thrill and lessons you'll learn try and make something without any pattern at all.
  13. It is pretty much a loser's game to try and alter an existing pattern if you don't really understand how the pattern was made and thus how it works. This was the single biggest watershed in my sewing life because all of a sudden so many other things made sense. Once I learned how to draft patterns my error rate dropped dramatically. It is a skill best learned in the old school classroom way with a degree of rigour and precision, even if you disregard it later, so it is a commitment, but it will do more for your sewing than anything else.

Sunday, 11 April 2010


I don't know why I haven't made these before - very easy and quick and a big hit with the whole family. I read a few recipes before I tried making them, but I didn't follow any really closely I was amazed how closely they tasted to ones I'd had in restaurants. I made 30 and froze half for next time (the photo is one I pulled from the freezer because we ate all the cooked ones before I thought about taking a picture!).

300gms pork mince
small hand full of garlic chives cut very small
half a clove of garlic very finely chopped
a tiny nub of ginger very finely chopped
2 whole water chestnuts finely chopped (I'll use more next time!)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 packet of 30 wrappers (I used this brand from the supermarket)
1 tbs vegetable oil

Mix all the ingredients except wrappers and veg oil. Lay out the wrapper, wet all around the rim with wet fingers and put a teaspoon of mince mix in centre. fold in half and pinch around the rim to close.

Heat veg oil over high heat in a frypan and put the gyozas in. When nicely brown on bottom, lower heat and add a bit of water (about 1/4 cup) and put lid on for 10 or so mins until water all absorbed. Serve with dipping sauce of 2:1 rice vinegar to soy sauce with a few drops of sesame oil.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

oh oh oh!

Some clever people have gone and started this place, an online community for sewing types. It looks like Ravelry did in the early days, and as Rav users will know, what at first seemed a little clumsy or perhaps dare we say unnecessary quickly turned into the single most valuable resource a yarn lover could hope for and something many of us now simply can't imagine living without.

I see a lot of potential here folks, so quick! Get on over and sign up and let's get this ball rolling!

let's commence

I'm striking while the iron is hot, for men who request handmade goods should be satisfied quickly lest they change their minds. Some delightfully napped wool/mohair/nylon in charcoal and some silk in white, black and shades of red. Of course it won't be much like Wil's jacket, since D chose proper thick coat fabric instead of suiting wool but I am up for the challenge! And I think I will heavily modify and upsize a teen pattern from Ottobre. And I'll cross my fingers quite a lot.

Friday, 9 April 2010


So deeply satisfied I can't tell you.

The boy loves it, which is the greatest achievement of them all.

And when he wears it with his little cap, well, it's serious spunk material.
It's been such a hit that even the older bloke is thinking he might like one. I don't get to make much stuff for D, he's not much into stuff. And between his polar fleece, denim jacket and leather jacket he doesn't generally see a need for something more. But I've got his attention now and sparked his imagination, so tomorrow I'll start drafting a pattern (sans hood sadly) and set out to find some fabric worthy of this rare commission. Very excitement!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

and just a wee bit more

Another couple of caps - for Amy and Wil. A great pattern this one, everyone likes it, it suits everyone and it's really fast to make.

About 90% of Wil's winter jacket (can't finish until I get a zip, oh how I hate incompletion!!). A lovely remnant of fine suiting wool and every last scrap of the super sweet car fabric I bought from Etsy.

I had to use a different fabric to line the sleeves (half a metre can only be stretched so far), but don't worry it's also car themed. I think this will do great service when it's all finished up. As usual I used an Ottobre pattern (so predictable), it's the canvass jacket from 4/2006 size 92/98 cm.

I used the last of the scraps from Amy's leggings and a few more scraps from something I made years ago and made up the Harava sweatshirt from 1/2009 for Wil (size 92/98cm). It looks better on than off and I'm very pleased with the pintuck detail on the front and the fact that I managed to squeeze yet one more garment from the scrap pile. Never say never!

Out of the stash I pulled this ancient velvet/velour/stretch I don't know what and eeked out a pair of pants for me (jazz pants from ottobre made a billion times before). Badly in need of a press!

And then I walked away from the sewing table. And that may be it for a few days at least. So over the last 5 days there is been new jeans (amy), new lined wool coat (amy), new party skirt (amy), new leggings (amy), new wrap top (amy), new cap (amy), refashioned jeans (wil), new not quite finished lined wool jacket (wil), new top (wil), new cap (wil), refashioned skirt (me), refashioned top (me), new vest (me), new cap (me), new pants (me), new cap (ava). And I'm cool with that.

The ottobres have been getting a real work out this Easter. I only bought 4 mags with me, so I had to choose from the relatively small selection for this whole sewing adventure and this is what I really like about this magazine - with a small amount of customisation, you can throw together a lot of clothes from a few editions. I've recently discussed some of the shortfalls of the ottobre mag with another sewer, so I can see there are some issues there. I think perhaps I'm just used to how they work - and quite prepared where something isn't clear or straightforward to depart from the pattern and do what seems right to me. Perhaps that means they are less suitable to beginners, or maybe beginners should stick to the more simple patterns within the wide range of offerings in each mag. I don't know how happy a beginner would have been making the lined wool coat for example, but I don't think this is a garment a beginner would find easy regardless of where the pattern came from.

It's also been great to have sewn almost completely from the stash, including a lot of remnants and scraps left over from previous projects. Nice to be using stuff up, using itty bits, clearing out stuff I've had for years and years and so on. Also very nice to have discharged a range of relatively urgent needs and feel the children won't die of cold and neglect etc. All round, very satisfactory. And feeling quite spent will open up a couple of undistracted days for other stuff when we get home before school goes back, like a movie and some visiting and so on. Nice.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

yet more legendary awesomeness

I haven't had a roll like this in months and months, but I have had another day of fabulously successful and productive sewing.

I finished off Amy's coat once she reluctantly agreed to my button choice.

I whipped up another pair of leggings for Amy using the ottobre licorice leggings pattern and a remnant of fabric I've had for over a decade (thereby proving that no piece of fabric is too small to be kept - I loved the print and although I never imagined back then in my childless days that less than a metre of printed jersey would ever be useful, it has been and fabulously so).

Another cap in a smaller size for a birthday gift tomorrow. Amy's choice (she's angling for a matching one of course). I'll do a spot of embroidery tonight to make it sparkle a little.

I love this layer on layer wrap stretch top. I will go a treat with the party skirt. Another remnant, one I bought recently at Rathdowne remnants to reward Amy for good behaviour (best $5 I ever spent and this top only used a bit over half of it!). I made the pattern up in the cutting.

I also refashioned this top - a printed jersey I adore, but when I made the original garment it was never right. The waist was too low so the wrap part sat wrong, the neck gaped, it was too big, too long - the whole shebang. So I finally pulled it apart and put it back together in more pleasing proportions.

And lastly, this skirt got a good going over. It started out at craft camp 2007, a beautiful embroidered eyelet linen in six panels with a stretchy lycra waistband. So I massively shortened it, took off the waistband, shaped each of the panels, added an invisible zip and I like it much better. I also think it is much more flattering! And extra points if you noticed that wee Amy in the above left photo is wearing the same T shirt as in yesterday's post, how's that for extended wear?!

I simply can't imagine what may arise tomorrow...