Saturday 26 December 2009

Not Knitting but Looking

I have an aim to be as wardrobe self-sufficient as possible, by which I mean making almost everything that I wear, and this aim is becoming increasingly important to me. But the more I think about this aim, the more it also becomes clear that, even for the most creative of peops in possession of a huge quantity of mad-skills, to be wardrobe self-sufficient is a very difficult task. For example, there are always going to be some types of garments that peops find a doddle to make (usually through many attempts and lots of practice) and those that they tend to avoid because they appear an impossibility. As I'm sure I have previously reported, for me knitwear is one such Achilles heal.
At present all my jumpers and cardigans are either ones that I bought previous to my initial Wardrobe Refashion pledge or are second hand, with the one notable exception of my first cut and sew jumper attempt which I wrote about here. However, one day I would love to learn to knit to add a further set of skills to my wardrobe creating abilities.

I must admit that there have always been three main issues that have put me off learning to knit. The first is an impression formed by watching my mum battle with knitting projects in the past: it seems that you often spend days on end knitting then trying on a sleeve or even get as far as having stitched fronts and backs together, and if there is a bad fit, masses of unravelling commences followed by many more days or re-knitting whole pieces. One of the things I like about sewing garments is that you can have mid-way fittings which you can respond to if necessary by performing small nips in here or letting out there or realigning this or that, before you get too far, thus preventing an unwearable garment or MASSES of unpicking and remaking. Maybe this concern is just a prejudice born out of a lack of knowledge, and perhaps fitting knitwear is something that needn't be such a headache?

My second concern is that is seems incredibly expensive if you want to use any wool that isn't a cheap synthetic ball of hideousness. It would be awesome to find old jumpers that can be unravelled and the wool re-used, but don't the original jumpers also have to have been hand-knitted to be able to do this? Sadly there appears to be some obvious limitations to this practice.

My third issue was that I rarely saw any styles of hand-produced knitwear that particularly appealed, since those hand-knitted cute 1940's cardigans that I like to imagine overflowed from the wardrobes of our grans and greatnans. I'm a massive fan of hand-knitted hats, scarves, gloves and mittens, but the examples of actual hand-knitted garments that I see in wool shops are rarely anything I would actually like to be seen in. Would I have to hunt down precious vintage knitting patterns if I took up knitting? Keen to be proved wrong and shown some current knitting patterns that I would be happy to wear it was time to do some research. It didn't take me long to discover some whilst checking out the fabulous Drop Stitches Not Bombs blog. The talented author is a true inspiration and her beautiful, and most importantly, wearable Audrey cardigan post led me to this company. It would appear that they have some seriously desirable options available, the pictures in this post hold testament to that (click on each image to be linked).

Now don't get me wrong. I don't want any knitters reading this to be under the illusion that I think knitting is a piece of piss and I'll be whipping up fabulous cardi's like it ain't no thang. I know that learning to knit is going to be a long, difficult and very much on-going task, even though I did a bit of knitting whilst at university (I recall making some not too terrible stripey mittens). So I guess I'm a false-beginner, as language teachers might say (i.e, you once had a bit under you belt but have since forgotten it all). I know that it's going to take a long time to acquire the skills to produce these garment patterns, but my discovery of their existence is certainly extra motivation.

Monday 21 December 2009

It's a Christmas Giveaway!!!!!!

Let me guess, you've been manically stitching for what seems like months to complete your handmade Christmas gifts, with the constant fear hanging over your head that the results will either be a FAIL or that they won't be appreciated with both outcomes resulting in a tragic loss of precious sewing hours, yes? I don't know how to avoid this scenario (although I have a feeling the answer probably would involve mulled wine), so instead I'm going to try to distract you, though seeing as you're on the internet reading this you probably have sought and achieved distraction all by yourself. Anyway.

A month or so ago I took some of my own money saving advice and broke my self-enforced eBay ban to bid on some vintage dress patterns. I must explain that I had to enforce a ban on this theoretically money saving practice as my inability to restrain my bidding kind of wipes out the 'money saving' element! Don't worry, I've more or less got a handle on things again, but my last bout has meant I am now the owner of way more vintage patterns than I can justify owning. My personal stand point on things is thus: if I honestly don't think I'm going to use the pattern, either because I already have something similar, it's the wrong size, or not my style, I have to release it back into the wild to find a loving owner.

These two beauts were part of a lot that I won which in my heart of hearts I don't think I will use. But the question is, would you?! The Maudella pattern is labelled Bust 36" Hip 38", and the Butterick is Bust 34". Sadly neither feature the date. The Maudella is a really unusual style that would really showcase a clever combination of fabrics and the Butterick is a really sweet classic style with a choice of neckline ('jewel neck' and 'shallow neck' apparently). The envelop of the latter is a little tatty, but all instructions are present and I believe the patterns themselves to be complete.
So, despite the small sizing difference (who really knows when it comes to different styles produced by different manufacturers?) I'm offering these up together. Both must have, at some point, belonged to a mysterious 'Anne M', as this is written on the front of them, so I feel it would be wrong to separate them. I'm willing to send them completely free of charge anywhere in the world, just leave a comment at the end of this post with some way for me to get in touch with you, and I'll pick a winner (assuming more than one person is interested) by a random generator, probably using some bits of paper in a hat, old school style, on Sunday 27th December at 9pm UK-time. Then one lucky winner will know that all thoughts of Christmas present making panic can be forgotten for another year, and self-indulgent sewing is but a postal journey away! Good luck and happy Christmas!

Wednesday 16 December 2009

At Colette Patterns this week: 'Creative Spaces: Jane Foster's Studio'

Imagine having a nose around one of your favourite designers workspaces. What inspirational images and objects do they have on display? Is it be messy or meticulous? Bright and colourful or muted and calm? What projects would you find in progress? How many projects do they work on at the same time? Questions, questions! Well, thanks to her blog, I was able to find these things out about the workspace belonging to Jane Foster, one of my favourite contemporary designers. If you fancy taking a look too, head over to this weeks post by yours truly at the Colette Patterns blog.

Monday 14 December 2009

Stitching and Styling

Another outcome from the month of sobriety (AKA, November): a dress to wear to attend my friends' recent wedding. I finished this creation some weeks ago, but didn't want to post about it until I had photographic evidence of it in action!

I used the Danielle pattern which is free from Burdastyle, but remembered to make some alterations since my first attempt at this pattern which came out irredeemably too tight in the bodice. This version's fit was a vast improvement. I also raised the depth of the neckline by about 1.5 cms, as the first version allowed my bra to peek out, not an attractive feature in a dress made to attend a wedding in! However, like the first attempt, I lined the bodice rather than making facings as instructed, it gives it a cleaner and more structured line.

The fabric I chose was probably meant to be curtaining fabric, as it was the widest fabric I have EVER encountered! I bought 1m 20cms and literally had enough fabric for two dresses. It was also very cheap from a shop which does not usually enjoy a reputation for low prices. I noticed on a subsequent visit that some bright spark had in fact cut this in half, effectively doubling their income on this item. Business as usual at Ribes i Casals.

Anyway, after completion, I couldn't help but notice that it had a certain 'little girl's bridesmaids dress' feel about it. I felt a little discouraged but then I found this image on some blog or other:

The styling of the model inspired the deployment of bright fuscia tights and homemade fuscia and white fake flower hair accessories which brought my ensemble together. Phew!

It was one of the most beautiful weddings I've ever been to. Congratulations Umi and Andy! I wish you all the happiness you can handle!

Tuesday 8 December 2009

At Colette Patterns this week: 'Vintage Details: Hand painted buttons'

So you've found a beautiful pattern, mustered up the patience to make a toile to perfect the fit, hunted down the most amazing fabric (we're talking fabric that made you gasp and sweat a bit the first time you clapped eyes on it), rounded up the usual suspects (thread, zip, hook and eyes blah blah) and you are all set to make the garment you are pretty sure your granddaughters fighting over fifty years from now. But wait! You're going to use those buttons?! The cheap looking plastic crap you picked up from the haberdashers chosen solely because the colour is vaguely the same? REALLY? Doesn't this creation deserve something better? Something that has been produced by hand with as much care as your garment is about to have lavished on it? Something like these vintage handpainted buttons that are the stars of my post this week over at Colette Patterns? Yes? How fortuitous!

Thursday 3 December 2009

Treggings and Stripes

Just because I don't buy new clothes doesn't mean I don't crave a new outfit when hitting the town as much as the next chica. Especially after a WHOLE four weeks of post-30th-birthday / pre-Christmas abstinence that is being drawn to a close with TWO birthday celebrations to attend in Saturday night. That, people, is the very definition of a situation which requires a new outfit! (Pictured above, the first sip after those four, long, weeks.)

As you might have seen from my more frequent posting, I've been getting my sew on as of late! November's sobriety has had the unexpected result of a surge in productivity. However, some of this increase in finished garments has got to be because I've been deploying some patterns which are either good to go, or require only a little tweaking. The aforementioned new outfit is a prime example:

The top is a variation of the two previous navy tops. It's the shape of the navy T-shirt but with the hem extended, and set in sleeves. Oh but wait, don't let me down-play my major achievement here: the self bound neck hole! Woo hoo! I really wasn't expecting this to work out, after my previous disaster, but I was inspired my EmilyKate's amazing stripy T that sports a great self-bound neckline. I just took it very gently so as not to stretch the cut neck edge. When the binding was attached, it looked pretty rubbish, but a gentle steam with the iron got it dealt with and made it lay flat. I was prepared for disappointment and the likelihood of re-cutting the neckline and using my usual zigzag elastic effect, but no, to my immense surprise it wasn't necessary!

Onto the bottoms. During the creation of my jeggings, I somehow located enough patience to mark all the alterations I had to make onto the pattern itself. So it was a simple enough task to take my jeggings pattern and some black sateen fabric that has a slight stretch and crank out some treggings.

EXCEPT the black sateen doesn't have as much stretch in it as the jeggings navy stretch twill which completely explains why, after I graded my existing pattern up a size for the jeggings, I ended up taking most of the extra width out again from the side seam. Agh! Anyway, aside from them being pretty tight, they look DAMN good!

As with the jeggings, I have evaded the pain of making a fly front by making a concealed side zip fastening. There are patch pockets on the butt and small patch pockets in the same shape on the front. Oh, and they are great for dancing in deserted metro stations in the early hours of the morning (please bring in exhibit A):

Wednesday 2 December 2009

At Colette Patterns this week: 'Colour inspiration: Antique Tiles'

Well, it's been quite a week over at Colette Patterns. FINALLY the long awaited new range of patterns have been unveiled! I was anitcipating this with such fervour that I had it written down in my diary. Charmingly, these lovely designs are named after different types of tea, which would explain why all of a sudden I can say that I, an English tea-hater, love Ceylon!

So whether you're racking your brains for vintage colour ideas to make up these beautiful new patterns, or you simply enjoy having a gander some pretty antique things, pop over and check out this weeks post loving crafted by yours truly.

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