Sunday, 19 April 2015

The ethics of stash raiding

When I packed my bag before we moved out three weeks ago for the renovations on our kitchen, a not inconsiderable portion of the bag was filled with knitting wool. Well I could hardly justify bringing a sewing machine (even my portable one) and I didn't want to leave myself with nothing to do. When we moved out we were not entirely sure how long it would be for, and I had to guesstimate the amount of wool I would need. I thought I had erred on the side of caution, but last Tuesday the unthinkable happened - I ran out of wool!!! I knew I would be out at my own house later in the week to meet the builder and could pick up some more of my own wool at that point, but what to do until then???

I was staying with the boyfriend's family at the time and his mum suggested I raided the stash of his sister, which she had left in the house when she headed off to America last year. I was tempted but was this OK? How would I feel if someone when routing through my stash while I was away? I ran this ethical dilemma past a couple of my knitting friends, and they were all for it. (You know you were ladies, no good trying to deny it now). Acting on their wise advice I went stash raiding.



What did I find? A small, but perfectly formed stash. Three beautiful skeins of malabrigo yarn, and some lang cashmere dk in four colours. I decided to pinch the lang cashmere as I thought it was the least lovely and expensive, but I still felt a little guilty. In the end I decided to own up, and told Clare what I was up too. It seems I need not have worried as she had left a message for me some time ago to help myself, it had just never made it to me! Given this, and that I've finished my first project with the long cashmere, the malabrigo yarn is looking very tempting :-)



Quite cute I think, the pattern (Gidday baby) is one I've used before and really like. I just need to get back into my house so I can raid my button box to finish it off. (Update: I've just been given access to my mother-out-of-laws button box and have found the perfect buttons). There are lots of babies arriving in the next few months so I'm glad to be getting a head start on the present knitting.

I finished the cardigan last night and had left it in the sitting room, when I came down this morning I found that panda baby had moved in. He looks pretty happy with his new top.


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Renovating and decluttering


Although not so much the blog but my sewing room! We have had builders in the house since last month, and for the last two and a half weeks we have had to move out - I've been putting up with the dust fairly well until now, but no electricity and no plumbing was to much for me! We've been very lucky with friends and family putting us up, but I'm dying to get back to my own home soon.

As a result of the renovations we have been living out of one red sports bag, which has made me realise just how much stuff I have, and how little of it I need. I can feel a declutter coming on when I get back to the house, and there is nothing I like better than a clear out. Although I do seem to be endlessly clearing out, so maybe I'm not as good at it as I think!?!

Over Christmas one of my friends asked how I had room in my wardrobe for all the clothes I make? I think regular decluttering is the answer, and I do periodically have clear outs of my wardrobe. Interestingly, this month in their Wardrobe Architect series, Coletterie have been asking people to talk about their biggest wardrobe planning dilemma, and it seems that clearing out unloved/badly fitting clothes is a problem for many. I feel this is not such an issue for me, and I certainly have thrown out lots of garments I've made myself, although there are some old favourites I can't bear to part with, even though I know I won't be wearing them again. It tends to be not so much a fit issue with me that causes me to throw things out but more because I'm unhappy with the construction, or because it's just not my style any more. On the other hand there are somethings I've made which I've been holding on to for years. Last night I found a pair of PJs I made years ago in a cupboard at the boyfriend's parents house - I was so happy, I thought I'd lost them. (They have astronaut teddies on them, and are fleeced lined making them the most cosy PJs ever!)

While reading through the comments on the Coletterie post I came across a reference to  Marie Kondo's the life changing magic of tidying up. I couldn't resist, and a copy is even now winging its way towards me. Once I get back into my house, and all the decorating is done, it will be beautifully clutter free! As long as I can learn to resist those charity shop bargains.


Sorry this has been a rather wordy post, but with the current restraints on my crafting I've not too much else to talk about :-) 

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Happy Easter!

It's Easter, and a quarter of the way through through the year, so it seems like a good time to look back at those resolutions I made in January and see what progress I've made.

During 2015 I will sew at least five of my vintage or reproduction sewing patterns.

Hum, well, that would be a 0 out of 5 for this resolution so far. But, I have decided to take pact in the Spring for Cotton challenge, which means I will have to get one vintage project finished by the end of April. Plus, I'm planning to use a vintage pattern to make a dress to wear to a wedding in May. Nothing like a deadline to focus the mind!


During 2015 I will sew at least five projects using fabric from my stash.

I'm doing much better on this resolution, although you wouldn't know from reading this blog as I've been terrible about posting my projects this year. In fact I've made one pair of trousers from my stash, and nearly completed a second pair and a dress (they need a button hole and hand sewing of the lining in place to finished them). I think a 2.5 out of 5 for this resolution is reasonable. Although part of the reason for this resolution was to de-stash, and after a particularly heavy stash increasing visit home last month I fear my stash balance is seriously in the red.


During 2015 I will make at least one coat and some lingerie.

I fear this is another resolution I've not made much progress on, but I have finally got my hands on Amy Butler's Rainy Days coat pattern, so I'm heading in the right direction with this one.

Although as I don't have any waterproof fabric in my stash it will require a fabric purchase. But, as I'll be buying it for a project it won't really be adding to my stash, it will be more stash neutral :-)


My final resolution was a knitting not a sewing one.


During 2015 I will knit at least 10 project using (mainly) yarn from my stash.

I is only a 1 out of 10 for this resolution, oh dear. Much of my knitting time this year has been taken up with dad's birthday socks, but yesterday I completed my Lauriel cardigan. I'm going to do a more detailed post on my Lauriel and a pattern review, but in the meantime here is a sneak preview.


All in all it would seem that I need to up my crafting speed if I want to make my goals by the end of the year. To this end I'm taking advantage of the long Easter weekend to relax, watch TV and knit. Oh yes, and to eat the simnel cake I made.


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Literary crafter of the month: Mme Hermelin

Yikes - it has been nearly a month since I last posted, and several months since I posted a literary knitter/crafter. However, I started reading a new book last night and on the first page I found a literary crafter, so I'm taking this as a sign to get back to the blog.

Her she is, Mme Hermelin, literary crafter for April.

'On this sixteenth day of May 1942, Mme Hermelin was wearing a new dress. It was made from an offcut of mattress ticking, long considered unsuitable for any other purpose, following the last renewal of her bedding. But after three years of war, in a moment of creative inspiration, it struck her that the blue and grey striped cotton was actually quite attractive, and with typical decisiveness she immediately had a dress made. The result was indeed strikingly novel, while suitably understatedas became a lady of her standing.'

Mme Hermelin in Welcome to the Free Zone by Nathalie & Ladislas Gara, translated by Bill Reed.

The book is set in a small village in Saint-Boniface in the Ardeche during the Second World War, and is 'a lightly fictionalized tale, based on the true story of Jewish refugees, the authors ... echo their experiences of trying to lie low in Nazi-dominated France. As I only started reading it last night I can't say a huge amount about the book, except I'm enjoying it so far and you should read it. You'll have to forgive the plug, but the translator is a friend :-)

I think there a several things I need to take from this quote; 'creative inspiration' and 'typical decisiveness' in my sewing, with the aim of a look that is 'strikingly novel, while suitably understated'.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Paws for thought

I can't believe it is March already. I feel like time is running away from me, I have such good intentions but I never seem to get round to finishing them. It's not a lack of motivation, I just seem to have a lot on - its been busy at work, we got an allotment at the beginning of February (although the weather hasn't been great so we've not spent much time up there) and after a year and a bit in our new house, the builder started work on our new kitchen and rewiring the house today! Which is great in the long term, but in the short term it mean disruption, dust and my sewing table being purloined. So, the next few weeks may not be the most productive for me crafting wise, but luckily the last few weeks have and I have a few projects to show.

One thing I have finished, and on time, is my father's birthday socks. Long time readers will know that for the last few years I have knitted my father a pair of socks for his birthday, which is the first of March. Unlike last year when his socks were several months late, this year he had a present to unwrap on the day.


For various (all charming) reasons my dad is know affectionately as Tigger or the fat cat, so I felt this year's socks needed a feline theme. I used a combination of patterns for these socks, the base pattern is Father's New Socks, I made the socks for him two years ago and he said they were a good fit.


The cat head is from a pattern I found on ravelry, I had to make a couple of alterations to the pattern to make it fit across the number of stitches I had on my socks. I added in an extra four stitches, two on each ear and one into each of the squares in the boarder. I love the way the cats face outwards on each sock. The paw print comes from this pattern, and I just couldn't resist it.


Reports from my father are that he is delighted with the new socks, and that they fit perfectly! Happy Birthday Dad :)

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Vintage week on the Sewing Bee

I think I'm enjoying this year's Sewing Bee even more than in previous years; the contestants are better, the challenges are harder and the judges and presenters are a good as ever.

Last week's episode was vintage week, and the contestants were all equipped with a vintage sewing machine. But not just any vintage sewing machine, a Singer Featherweight - just like the one my dad gave me for Christmas!

In the first challenge they had to make the Butterick Walk Away dress (B4790), a dress that was so popular when it was first printed in the 1950s that Butterick apparently stopped printing all other patterns to fill the orders for this one. It's main selling point was that you could 'start it after breakfast ... walk-away in by lunchtime'.


All of which make it an ideal pattern for the Sewing Bee and their time challenges. The amount of bias binding in the pattern also makes it an idea pattern for using the bias binding foot which comes with this sewing machine.  This dress has been on my wish list for a while, and I think inspired by the Sewing Bee, I will make it and I will be using my Singer Featherweight, and its bias binding foot.

In related vintage sewing news, I was recently sent the following extract from a 1940s Singer sewing machine manual, for what looks like a machine just like mine!


As I don't have a husband, I can't comment on the need to keep myself looking neat and tidy for him, but I do  agree with the need for mental preparation before sewing. I know I can only sew when I'm in the right frame of mine, and I certainly think it goes better if I'm working on a project I'm happy with. Today, I did my ironing before starting the sewing, but did this make for a better sew? Well my sewing went well today, but I don't know if the two are necessarily connected.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

How much is that doggie bag in the window?

This post has been a long time coming: ostensibly it's about this bag and matching purse, which I made as a Christmas gift. However, every time I sat down to write the post I realised it needed a bit more back story.



I made this as a gift for K, but who is she and why the gift? K was my mum's flatmate at university and is one of her best friends. As a result she has been a fairly permanent fixture throughout my life, whether sharing Christmas with my family or on holiday at her house in the Ardeche (and yes that is me hammering nails with my teddy bear). When I was growing up K was like an extra (and very cool) aunt.

Like me K is from a family of crafters (her mum was a sewing instructor for the WI), and in recent years I have been able to share my love of knitting and sewing with her. It is one of the things I love about crafting that it something which can be shared (in person or on line), and some of my closest friends now are ones I've made through knitting (hello ladies!). In the past few years K have very generously give me some beautiful fabric and buttons from her stash, from which I've made this dress and this jacket.



I wanted a special way to say thank you to K for her generosity, and I thought what better way than making her something from some of the fabric. Thus, the doggie bag was born.

The pattern is from Emma Brennan's Making Vintage Bags, and the fabric ...  well it was formally in K's stash! I know K loves dogs and I couldn't resist the little applique dog. I really wanted to line the bag with dog fabric, but I found it very difficult to find. I dragged my poor boyfriend round every fabric shop in Cork and on our holiday before Christmas and failed. When I got home for Christmas I thought I would just try my local fabric shop at home, and there they were - these adorable little Scottie dogs.




I really enjoyed making this project, not only because it was a fun little project but also because of who I was making it for. It is also one of the best made things I've done in a while, you can see from this picture I even quilted the lining fabric! Well K's mother was a sewing instructor for the WI, and I knew she would be checking my workmanship. And I was right, the very first thing she did was look at the seams!


Having scrutinised my handiwork, and it having (I hope) passed the test, K seemed delighted with her new bag, and I hope it will be getting plenty of use!

And while K was unwrapping her present, I was unwrapping one from her and what was it in? Yep, that's right ... more loveliness making its way from K's stash to mine!

This picture really doesn't do the gift justice - the fabric is a lovely navy blue wool (I'm thinking coat - especially as it is one of my goals for the year to make outerwear) and the buttons and buckles - well what can I say, they are just fabulous and I can't wait to make something from them. And, I already have a project in mind for the green ones!