Does anyone else feel that life is just a little too cluttered sometimes? There always seem to be those little chores we need to get done, and we strive to do the things we want to do, but sometimes aren’t really sure even what they are..
I’ve been reading a book recently called The Organized Mind, which is all about focusing, decluttering and living in a world that is full of so much information without getting overwhelmed. It’s quite hard going, very science-y but explained well and I can’t get my head out of it. Having ticked off many of the things on my list that have been hanging over me since before the wedding, things are starting to get a little clearer.
I’m enjoying the peace and quiet of our new house, the ticking of the clock, working simple crochet granny squares placemats in silence, happily counting the stitches around and around like a meditation. There doesn’t seem enough time for these simple pleasures, though with no small people to look after and a normal working week I’m not sure why.
I’ve also been a little obsessed with colouring. The colours I’ve been attracted to recently seem to reflect those of the sea, the purple horizon blending seamlessly into that beautiful turquoise green. We haven’t made any of our usual little camping trips to the coast this year and I’m really missing Cornwall and the sea air.
I think a few more weeks of rest might allow me to find out what’s missing at the moment. I haven’t worked on any designs for a while and this makes me itchy, yet I took time out because I felt like I was working all the time. Recently my yarn has been calling to me and new ideas have been popping up, so hopefully soon something will emerge.
In the meantime I think I’ll continue to enjoy the quiet moments for a while.
I’m really sad I hardly wore this cardigan on our wedding day. It was sunny in the daytime (but not massively warm), and for some reason I went without it. I think I thought I’d look better in pictures without it, as I’d really made it in case it was cold, but as a result there are only a handful of photographs of me wearing it.
The pattern is Marianne by Sharon Miller, from Rowan Magazine issue 37:
I used Rowan Kidsilk Haze in Marmalade (596), which I was unsure about to begin with as it’s soooo fluffy!! Actually it looks really lovely. I am not a fluffy person at all, but now I’m looking for an occasion I can wear this for more than 10 minutes!
There are mixed reviews of Kidsilk Haze online, and having never worked with it before, I was interested to see what it would be like to knit with. I have to say, I had no problems with it whatsoever, I was just careful not to make (too many) mistakes. I worked the cardigan in one piece to the armholes and there was a bit of fudging to try and keep the pattern during the shaping, but the fuzziness of the yarn hides this quite well! The pattern was easily memorised once I got going and it was good fun to knit up.
I made a few adaptations to the pattern; I lengthened the sleeves and lowered the neckline. I wanted to be able to wear it open without it looking odd and hanging funny, so I started the neck decreases at the same time as the first armhole cast offs, then calculated how often to do them to end up with the right stitch count for the shoulders.
I also omitted any sort of button band, as I liked the shape with the new neckline. Instead I went around the opening with one row of single crochet and fastened off. This picture shows the shape of it quite well:
Consequently, despite the extra sleeve length I still used far less yarn than the pattern called for, so if anyone is looking for a ball of Kidsilk Haze Marmalade from dye lot 3929 then let me know!
So, the reason my blog posts have been so non-existent since August is because I was beavering away making a wedding dress! In secret! I took so many photos along the way and I really wanted to share it with people, as it was a huge learning curve for me but I don’t have many sewing buddies I could geek out with over it.
I knew exactly where to begin when it came to the style of wedding dress I wanted to make. I have sewn several patterns before for a similar design and I knew this was something I could cope with. In that respect I did minimum research, other than looking at other dresses in this style to check out the length, the fullness of the skirt and how low the neckline came.
I completed a pattern cutting course about 10 years ago, but I’ve only drafted a couple of dresses completely from scratch since. Using my original bodice block, I made a rough pattern for the bodice. I don’t feel I have changed shape at all since the first block was drafted, but I discovered needed to make a few major alterations, which was suprising as it fitted quite well at the time.
After all the alterations were marked, I drew the outline of where I wanted the neck to be onto the block and then transferred all that to the pattern.
The photo above is the first “main fabric” I purchased. It looked great on the roll, but when I got it home I had doubts about it looking cheap, and too see-through.
I had real trouble getting fabric as I’m so indecisive. I was originally looking for a really lovely silk, but I found that most fabric shops in Bristol don’t stock it, and I was too impatient to travel as I wanted to get started right away. The best I could find was Fabrics Plus in Downend, which has a selection of books with samples of silk in, but they are only around an inch square, and without seeing how the fabric draped I wasn’t keen to order anything from them. So I settled on cotton, as I’ve worked with it a lot before and I have no clue about silk.
The dress itself is a very simple design, which I ended up making several times. I sewed a toile in calico first, though in fairness the fabric I had was much thicker than the fabric I wanted to use for the final dress, so it wasn’t a great representation. It helped to give a general idea of fit and to get the waist measurement right on the circle skirt. This app tutorial was useful for calculating the measurements.
Above Left -The first toile, in calico too thick to tell me a lot, and the second version, right,
which was going to be the final dress, but didn’t feel very special.
Once I was happy with the fitting I pieced together the dress in my chosen fabric, only to find that once it was all sewn together, I had totally gone off the fabric, it looked like a flimsy white summer dress rather than a wedding dress, and was slightly see-through.
I realised then there would need to be a lot more construction involved than I initially thought. I was always going to bone the lining of the bodice, but when I looked at wedding dresses on pinterest for help I saw there was a lot more structure to them.
I’d love to do a tutorial on what I did here, but it was all quite new to me and wouldn’t be fair on the many bloggers who’s posts I used to help me along the way. Three tutorials I kept coming back to (I made my boned bodice twice) were Sewing a Boned Bodice, Sewing a Butted (or Abutted) Seam, and the Making Bust Padding tutorial all from A Sewaholic. The tutorial about the seams and the padding were particularly useful to someone who has never made any kind of corset before. The first bodice I finished was in calico and was so chuffed with it – the stitching was neat and it fitted so well. I’m kind of rubbish with toiles and I like to just get stuck in, and this was going so well I decided it wasn’t necessary to remake it in nicer fabric, as the calico was stiff enough to help with the structure. But the colour was too dark and was clearly visible through the dress fabric, so I ended up making the corset again in a white linen I had in my stash.
The bra cups were fun to make, and made a massive difference! I have always thought this style of dress completely flattens me, and despite buying myself a nice fancy bra I felt I still needed some help in this department. Originally I padded out the entire front, but this just gave me extra structure that I didn’t need and made me look a size bigger than I am, so I cut the bottom section off and just padded the cups.
I tacked the boned corset into the dress and instantly felt better about the construction, but I still wasn’t happy with the main fabric. It just looked a bit cheap and didn’t feel special.
I decided to take a look at quilting cottons, as often there is a nice sheen to them and they have a good weight. There seems to be a bit of conflict here as to whether they are good for dressmaking or not, but I’ve always found I like the prints and the stiffness has never put me off. After more searching I found the fabric to make the final dress in Country Threads in Bath, which I love because it’s paisley!
You can’t tell this from any of the wedding pictures, but I knew it was there 😉
I went for rouleau loops to fasten the back of dress, for the simple reason I didn’t want to ruin all my efforts by putting in a zip. I’ve never made these before and was quite keen to add yet another new technique to my belt, so I took to Pinterest looking for more information. The process is all very simple, basically you’re just sewing a very thin seam and turning it in on itself. It took me a few attempts using different methods, and in the end I settled with the loop-turner technique, using a needle from my knitting machine. Then I chopped them all up and painstakingly tacked them all to a sheet of paper ready for sewing on to the dress.
At some point during all of this I also made a lining and attached it, and then finally added a waist-stay at the end.
I hope everyone had a lovely Easter! My weekend started out well, we went to collect a sofa from the lovely Kate at work, which prompted several shiftings around our living room to see what worked best. We’ve been living with a futon as a settee for the last 2.5 years (see photo in last post) and it has been gradually depressing me. This seems to use less space in the living room and it actually feels like a grown-ups room now, as opposed to something more studenty.
Shifting turned to decluttering and soon I was sorting through all my knitting books and giving them their own shelves. Although it seems the odd few other tall books may have snuck in there too!
Just as everything was starting to look nice, we hit a few problems. A persistent leak dripping from the bath into the kitchen, which has been going for years un-noticed, is now quite apparent. And wet. Then an avalanche of paper-work, books, musical instruments, a stereo and a printer in Chris’s studio, as the shelves containing them decided enough was enough. Oops. This led to taking a car-boot full of stuff to the charity shop and a couple of long days tidying and reorganising EVERYTHING.
Isn’t it funny though how sometimes it takes something that seems like a nightmare at the time to make you sort yourself out? It was so refreshing to throw things out, relabel stuff we wanted to keep in boxes, and make everything so much more minimal.
I’ve decided it’s time I gave my sewing box some love. Shamefully, it’s been sat like this in my living room for sometime now as I continue to put more stuff in it and never really throw anything away. Today I decided enough was enough and I was going to fix it up and start using it properly.
The box cost me £5 in the PDSA shop in Exeter about 10 years ago. I’ve always loved the idea of having a proper sewing box, but my creative side conflicts with my tidy side so I go through phases of making stuff for weeks before I turn around and notice everything is a mess.
Sometimes you need to make a mess before things get tidy!
Now things are looking much happier:
and I discovered a few old things with uses..
I’m not sure how long it will stay this way, but this is certainly an improvement! Now to tackle my needle box..
I found this lovely crochet blanket last week in a vintage shop in Shoreham-by-Sea for a mere £12! It needs some love in a few places and will eventually be replaced by this blanket I’m crocheting in Erika Knight Vintage Wool, when this will become my camping blanket. I’ve always fancied a crochet throw like this to snuggle down with when staying outdoors, but don’t think I’d ever have the heart to do it with something I’d put so many hours into crocheting myself in case it got spoilt.
Whoever made this obviously had an eye for colour and spent some time on this, so I’m sure they’d be pleased it’s gone to a good home.
I’ve reached the end of a knitting deadline, so I decided to treat myself to some pretty fabric and get sewing!
I’ve decided to recreate this floral skirt, which cost me 50p in a charity shop. It’s made with 3 pieces of fabric, which wrap around and fasten with buttons at the front, and has a couple of hip darts in the back.
This should be fairly easy to get the pattern from, then its just a matter of sewing up the seams and fitting the waist band!
Excuse crappy photo. Phone blogging has it’s benefits but shiny sharp photos isn’t one of them!
My Hat Knitting Design Workshop from Issue 63 is now available through The Knitter app on Apple Newsstand, for iPhone and iPad. Not only does this include the knitting pattern for Gwythian, my latest hat design, there is also a 4 page spread on how to design your own hat pattern, and an interview with yours truly!
It was Mum’s birthday this week and I recently succeeded in getting her back into knitting (I think sending her my first published pattern in the Knitter may have played a part – there was also a tempting sweater pattern in the same issue!)
As it were her who taught me to knit in the first place, aged about 5, I thought an apt present might be to sew a knitting needle roll in which to keep that fast growing collection of Knit Pro interchangable needles.
I found this sweet sewing tutorial over at Today We Made and adapted it to include an extra pocket for cables, stitch holders and the little purse I made to hold knitting notions.
This was also my first attempt at making a hand sewn button loop (I saw they were a challenge on the Great British Sewing Bee and thought I’d have a go.) It was hard! But I’m quite pleased with this for a first attempt.