Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Literary Knitter: The Scarlet Pimpernel

As with last month(ish), this month's literary knitter is another revolutionary knitter - The Scarlet Pimpernel, from the book of the same name by Baroness Orczy.

Bibot [one of the Captains guarding the gates out of Paris], during the day, had been on duty on the Place. He recognised most of the old hags, 'tricoteuses', as they were called, who sat there and knitted whilst head after head fell beneath the knife, and they themselves got quite bespattered with the blood of those cursed aristos.
'Hè, le mére!' said Bibot to one of these horrible hags, 'what have you got there?'
He had seen her earlier in the day, with her knitting and the whip of her cart closed beside her. Now she had fastened a row of curly locks to the whip handle, all colours, from gold to silver, fair to dark, and she stroked them with her, huge bony fingers as she laughed at Bibot.
'I made friends with Madam Guillotine's lover', she said with a course laugh, 'he cut these off for me from the heads as they rolled down'.

Bibot lets her through the gates out of Paris when she tells him that her grandson is in her cart with suspected smallpox. Shortly afterwards a captain of the guard appeared suddenly.

'A cart ...' he shouted, breathlessly, even before he had reached the gates.
'What cart?' asked Bibot, roughly.
'Driven by an old hag ... A cart ... A covered cart ...'
'There were a dozen ...'
'An old hag who said her son had the plague?'
'You have not let them go?'
'Morbleu!' said Bibot, whose purple cheeks had suddenly become white with fear.
'The cart contained the ci-devant Comtess de Tournay and her two children, all of them traitors and condemned to death.''And their driver?' muttered Bibot, as a superstitious shudder ran down his spine.
'Sacré tonnerre', said the captain, 'but it is feared that it was the accursed Englishman himself - the Scarlet Pimpernel.'

Richard E Grant
The Scarlet Pimpernel, as far as I am concerned

Saturday, 1 November 2014

A summer dress and a long overdue thank you!

This post is very long overdue, but I hope I will be forgiven.

Way back in July my friend Kate (over at Life at les Sarziers) put a comment on one of my posts ending on the exciting note that she was putting something in the post for me. I love getting parcels in the posts, and surprise parcels are always fun. When it arrived it was no disappointment as it contained this amazing dress. 

Just look at it, lovely colours, lovely stripes and amazing pleat work to make the pockets, its just so pretty. Kate sent me the dress as she thought I would like it and enjoy 'messing around' with it. It has been well loved by her, and (probably) her former flat mate who she thinks have given it to her. It seems I also wouldn't be the first person to make some alterations to it.

I spent quite a while considering what I would do, especially as I really like it as it is. In the end I decided to repair the problems first and then see what the fit was like.

The main issues were in the seams of the bodice. As you cans see they have been re-stitched a number of times, and there are some rips in the fabric. I took both seams apart down to the waist and strengthen them with lightweight interfacing, and then zig-zag stitched over the rips in the fabric to give them some extra strength. This was a bit fiddly because of the stripes in the fabric and needing to work in two colours, but I think it was worth the effort.

Once I had strengthened the edges, I re-sewed the side seams and found the dress fitted really well. Which saved the need for any alterations. I also replaced the armhole facings, did some minor repairs around the pockets, and re-hemmed the dress where it was falling down. 

The biggest decision I had to make was about new buttons - red or white? what shape? what kind? I spent a very confusing half an hour looking at buttons, and then bought both red and white. After much soul searching I finally decided to go with white buttons to do up the dress, and a couple of red ones to accentuate the pockets. The red buttons are pretty much the only changes I made to the dress, everything else was just repair work.

Of course, I finished the dress just as the summer ended in Dublin so I didn't have a chance to wear it. But last week I was in Sardinia for a few days giving me the perfect opportunity to wear the dress.

So, here I am wearing my new (old) dress on my uncle's balcony in Sardinia. Luckily, I had this photo taken before one of my uncle's famous gigantic pasta lunches otherwise I might have been bursting out of the dress. 

So all I can say is a (belated) thank you to Kate for sending me this fantastic dress, and I'm hoping to get a lot more wear out of it next summer!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Holiday knitting

Last week I spent a few days in Sardinia with my mum visiting my uncle. A week before I left I started thinking about what I would knit on my holidays. My main knitting project at the moment is big and bulky so wasn't really suitable to bring with me (especially as I only had hand luggage). I've been planning for a while to make a version of the shawl Linda wore on the Sewing Bee earlier in the years.

Linda's shawl was made using Kanui Wool 8/2 Effektgarn, which I was having trouble finding in Ireland, and I couldn't find a substitute I liked as much. I did by some Drops Delight with the idea of making the shawl from it, but I couldn't bring myself to start as I knew I would be dissatisfied with it. I finally decided to bite the bullet and order this wool on line, hoping it would arrive before I set of on holiday. Sadly it didn't.

Instead I set off with the pattern, and the Drops yarn I had originally bought so I would at least have something to knit. I think it has turned out well, although I don't like it as much as Linda's.

Although the yarn hadn't arrived before I went on my holiday, when I came back there was not one but two exciting parcels of yarn waiting on the doormat for me.

The first contained my ball of rainbow yarn, modestly orange and yellow on the outside, but with an exciting glimpse of the rainbow colours on the inside.

I ordered the wool from a Spanish store Naturalmente Lanas, as it was the nearest place that Ravelry identified as stocking it. Not only did they send the wool, but they also included two little stitch markers and a note.

How cute, well I must say thank you Dolors, I do like my new yarn!

The second parcel of yarn waiting for me when I got back from holiday was from S Twist Wool

I've blogged about S Twist before when he turned up at my knitting group in April with some samples. Well S Twist has just had a pattern designed especially for his wool, and I've been asked to be a test knitter for the pattern. Well, I'm delighted to help out and am looking forwards to working with S Twist's yarn again. 

Friday, 24 October 2014

Knitting & Stitching Show - Ticket Giveaway Results

As promised I've made the draw for the free tickets to the Knitting and Stitching Show. To ensure fair play I employed an independent scrutineer to oversee the draw.

There were 13 comments on the post, but I didn't include the one from anonymous (as I had no way of contacting them), sparklydatepalm (as she said in the comment she couldn't go) and I counted Trish's two comments as one. This gave a total of 9 comments which I numbered 1 to 9 in the order they were posted, and using random.org generated the three winners.

Drum roll please ...

And the winners are ...

Congratulations to MC, Trish and DublinDye. I'll be in touch today to arrange getting the tickets to you, and I hope that you enjoy the show.   

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Knitting & Stitching Show Dublin - Ticket giveaway

The Knitting and Stitching Show is coming back to Dublin, it will be on in the RDS from 30th October to 2nd November, and I for one am pretty excited! I was even more excited when the organisers offered me some free tickets to give away on my blog.

For those who haven't been to the show before its the largest textile and craft event in Ireland, with over 200 retailers selling everything you need for your craft from fabrics to wools, and threads to sewing machines, as well as patterns and books. There will also be loads of workshops where you can pick up new skills, as well as displays from artist and students from the Cork Crawford College of Art and Design. This year the show is also inviting attendees to The Great Irish PicKnit, a social gathering combining knitting and food, where people can share skills and experiences.

I've been the show a couple of times, and have enjoyed myself. The amount of crafting supplies on sale is astonishing, and I've certainly found that the range and price of fabric is really good compared to what is available in Dublin day to day. I'm already planning a trip to the show with my two friends from work who I am teaching to knit and sew.

Anyway, back to the really interesting bit - how do you get your hands on the free tickets?

Well, I have three sets of two tickets to give away. The tickets are only valid on Thursday 30th October, Friday 31st  October and Sunday 2nd November. 

To get your hands on a pair of these tickets you just need to leave a comment on this post, telling me why you want to go to the show. (Don't forget to leave an email address so I can contact you if you win). All comments posted before 5pm on Thursday 23rd October will be entered into a random draw and I'll announce the winner on Friday 24th and get the tickets to you. 

Good luck everyone...

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Practical Sewing - Results #2

I know it is October but I did get (nearly all) my practical sewing of t-shirts completed in September as promised. After my last post which included newly made t-shirts, this post looks at the three items I up-cycled. All three items came from a very successful charity shopping trip with T.

This t-shirt was originally from M&S (Limited Collection no less), and although I love the badgers I can quite see why someone gave it to a charity shop almost unworn as it is rather shapeless. 

My solution was to unpick the side seams and re-cut the shirt using the Sewaholic Renfrew pattern. 

As you can see this took off quite a bit of excess fabric from the seams especially at the bottom. A quick whizz through the machine and I had a new and much better fitting t-shirt.

Although looking at this picture I realise that I need to re-shape my dressmaking dummy, as she appear to have something odd going on with her hips.

My next up-cycling project was a bit more challenging - this black cashmere sweater, again originally from M&S.

I was a bit perplexed where to start with this one, I knew I wanted to end up with a close fitting short-sleeved 1950s style sweater but I didn't have a pattern for one. And then my copy of Gertie's new book Gertie Sews Vintage Casual arrived.

Look at that, the top I was planning right on the front cover - how perfect is that! 

Ta da! I was able to cut the front and back down to size keeping the originally ribbing at the bottom of the jumper. With the sleeves I had to cut them from the top so I couldn't reuse the ribbing, so the hems are just folded over. To jazz the top up a bit I used a small piece of lace from my stash to make the lace bid - tacking it in place on the front piece before sewing up the top. 

Luckily the neck ribbing was just the right size to go around the newly cut neck line and it finishes the top off rather neatly.

The final top was much simpler in that it already fitted me, but I felt the plain black and white stripes needed a little lift.

I'd love to claim that the idea was mine but I saw it first on Tilly and the Buttons. The flowers came from some fabric in my stash, I cut them out and fused them with Bondaweb to the t-shirt - simple and easy. I think I might go around the edges with a very fine zig-zag stitch as I'm not how long the bondaweb alone will last.

All in all I think my practical sewing has been a success - I have five new tops (plus a pair of pants) and every time I've worn them I've felt a great sense of achievement. I've also definitely caught the practical sewing bug and while at HandmAid last week I picked up some more jersey fabric.

I guess that these won't be the last t-shirts you'll see from me.


Monday, 22 September 2014

Practical Sewing - Results #1

At the beginning of the month I publicly announced my intention to undertake some practical sewing during September. I find this sort of pronouncement can be dangerous - normally I get totally distracted by other projects and then at the last minute have to scrabble to get things finished on time. However, for once I am on track and am delighted to present the first results of my practical sewing plans.

I whipped up these two t-shirt from jersey in my stash, using Sewaholic's Renfrew pattern. I've used this pattern before, and was really pleased with the results. Indeed the Renfrew on the right is very similar to the first renfrew I made two years ago - which just goes to show my tastes haven't changed that much. 

I like both versions, but I'm particularly found on the blue horses. I made a couple of changes to the pattern. Because I was using a darker colour jersey for the trim I thought there was a danger of this showing through the main fabric. To avoid this I applied the blue edging like binding, tucking the edges in and top stitching it into place, which produced a really nice finish. This was also the second of the t-shirts I made and I think I've got the fit a bit better, although this is probably also because the fabric has a bit more stretch in it.

So, in these two tops I'm half way to completing my September challenge, and I've used up some fabric from my stash which has been lurking there for months. Even better, there was enough fabric left over to make an even more practical garment - a pair of pants.

I've made a few of these in the last couple of months using Butterick Patten 6031, designed by Gertie. It's a really good pattern, quick and simple and very comfortable. Plus I now have matching pants and t-shirt, what's not to love?